There have been numerous articles and commentaries about the incident involving the mutilated cat on the Fraternity Quad. Several fingers have been pointed at a variety of people involved with the situation, causing a general lack of any one clear source of information. Moreover, there has yet to be a careful look at how the incident has been handled, or how the university chose the steps it did to inform the student body and the community at large.
The first publication about the incident was a security bulletin issued nearly two weeks after the incident, which contained very little detail. Meanwhile, WHEC 10 NBC, one of the Rochester news stations, had already carried the story, prompting several other networks to investigate the issue.
By the time an official university notice of any sort was issued, the community knew of the incident, had a handful of facts on who was involved and had already begun to form the opinions that have brought us to the situations in which the fraternities find themselves.
One of the more puzzling moves was the delay of almost six weeks before the UR Public Relations office issued an official statement to the media about the event.
Not only was the university not acting in its own best interest by delaying the statement, it was also feeding the confusion and chaos around campus about whatwas happening and which fraternities would be placed on probation. By choosing not to come forward and request the assistance of the student body early on, the University took the position that solving the case was not a priority and attempting to protect its image was. One has to ask whether or not investigating the incident was even in the plan, or if there was hope that this incident would blow over like so many others.
When the AP Newswire carried the story shortly after the local news aired it, it should have been no surprise that this incident required a swift and concise response from River Campus administration. There is no excuse for a six-week delay, and there is certainly no reason for not keeping the student body more informed of issues that directly impact life on campus.
This situation may be different from any other with regard to its nature and severity, but that is no excuse for the actions of administrators in failing to provide adequate and timely information about the incident.
The student body has a right to be informed about incidents on campus, and made aware of the steps being taken to investigate the issue, before seeing it on the evening news. The actions of university administrators, UR Public Relations and other offices involved with the matter have spoken loudly in favor of not defending that right.
It is very easy to sit back and criticize what went wrong after it happened. But the fact remains that an early, decisive response would have alerted the community that the university understood the horrific nature of the crime and that it was beginning the investigation immediately.
Such a response may have cleared up a lot of the current confusion surrounding the obscure facts of the situation. Getting a straight answer from anyone close to the investigation has resulted in a lengthy back-and-forth process.
A greater issue that will require discussion is whether or not this will be the protocol for future campus-wide incidents that attract national attention. Will the best interests of UR be served before the best interests of its students? Can a lack of action in these situations be beneficial in any way to those involved?
The investigation may be out of the hands of the students, but the right to know and understand important on-campus issues is well within the best interests of the entire student body.
DuLong is a part-time student and is speaking on behalf of the Students’ Association Senate Steering Committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.