University administration can never get it right, in the eyes of students. To our peers, it seems they can do nothing but blunder, obfuscate, or oppress.
Dissent and disagreement are crucial on college campuses. The point of a liberal arts education is to be confronted with difficult, perhaps unfamiliar ideas in a way that allows for frank, analytical discussion of those ideas. Tuesday night, however, was something else entirely.
The unwillingness to even consider that perhaps the intentions of the administration are typically in the interest of the student body is baffling, given that calls for increased transparency and student representation have been almost universally granted. While it does seem curious that no student currently serves on the Commission tasked with debating this issue, this doesn’t change the fact that the Commission or representatives thereof have already had multiple meetings with student leaders. Holly Crawford, University CFO and Senior Vice President of Administration & Commerce, as well as chairwoman of the Commission charged with reviewing the five-year Security Report, asked Students’ Association (SA) Vice President Melissa Holloway to take notes in her stead throughout the discussion, a clear effort to further involve students in the process. In addition, SA president-elect Vito Martino will sit on the Commission this summer.
These people are not stupid. They are not out to bilk students out of their money, to make them feel unsafe, or to operate in secrecy in order to sneak possibly objectionable measures under their noses. Tuesday’s discussion revealed a complete lack of respect for the administration’s care and effort in this situation, with hostile questions hurled towards Director of Public Safety Mark Fischer and Crawford.
Many asked questions that had already been answered. Others asked questions intending to follow up based on what they expected the response to be, only to find that the response didn’t actually warrant a follow-up. That, however, did not stop many from going ahead with the follow-up.
A good portion of the questions ignored much of the good that UR has already done or has committed to doing. For example, there seemed to arise a narrative that the school hasn’t done enough to engage with or invest in the surrounding community. This is patently false. UR has invested considerable funds into the city of Rochester, even going so far as to take the rehabilitation of an area high school upon themselves.
Many students bookended their remarks or questions with lavish praise for Public Safety officers, saying that they appreciated all the work they did and their efforts to connect with the community. Then, however, their approbation would be followed up with pointedly hostile questions that surely negate any purported respect. It’s akin to starting a sentence with, “No offense, but…”
To try and fit the school into a narrative of oppression in areas where it does not exist undermines what could be a relationship with the administration that works for students. The behavior on display at the discussion is indicative of an attitude of obstructiveness that rivals that of a modern GOP judicial hearing, not among a group of students who pride themselves on open-mindedness.
As far as the heart of the issue goes, we do not feel like we have heard enough from the Commission to articulate a sound solution. Specifically, we would like to see the Commission draw from the realm of nuanced proposals and present alternatives to the students. At this point, having not heard any concrete proposals, students assume that the consideration is all-or-nothing—either all peace officers become armed, or none of them do. Many students, ourselves included, feel that guns might be acceptable at the Medical Center, whose employees have actually asked for them. The case appears to be different on the River Campus. Solutions need to reflect the complexity of the situation and the need for arms in every campus locale.
But we, unlike many, but not all, of our peers, have confidence in the administration’s willingness to listen. Fischer himself said that all options are on the table, and we will hold him to his word—a word as good as any.