Campus Break-In Activates Emergency Network for First Time

Nick Sasso

At about 1:00 a.m. on December 9, just before winter break, Colgate students received a text message generated by the e2Campus emergency notification system. The alert resulted from a larceny attempt in an unlocked Russell House room in which two students were asleep. The event further prompted notifications across campus to ensure the attention of the community. In the aftermath, two Colgate football players were arrested in connection to the event.

National sports media quickly picked up the story. “Star Colgate running back Jordan Scott and a teammate were charged with entering a dorm room and rifling through a desk drawer,” the Associated Press reported. “Scott and wide receiver David Morgan were charged Sunday [December 8] with second-degree burglary and pleaded not guilty at their arraignment Monday [December 9]. The 20-year-old juniors were released after posting bail and the case was adjourned until Jan. 7.”

Colgate administrators reacted to the incident with caution, discussing whether or not to activate e2Campus.

“Based on the information I had, it was clear that there had been what the police refer to as a ‘home invasion,’ but the other facts of the case weren’t clear at that point,” Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said.

“I made the decision actually in consultation with Gary Bean, the Campus Safety Director, to alert students in the campus community via the e2Campus system.”

This was the first case in which the e2Campus notification system was implemented since its purchase by the University. Set up to rapidly alert students of any situations on campus, the message system is part of Colgate’s emergency response plan.

“I think we should all take a moment here and let this be an educational opportunity,” Dean Johnson said. “Hamilton is a safe place … but we shouldn’t become overconfident in that safety, and it’s easy to do that because even some of the residents of Hamilton leave their doors unlocked. But what I’d say to students is lock your doors.”

The events of that night prompted many reactions from both the University administration and the student community. To ensure that Colgate is adequately informed of a situation, Johnson and Campus Safety updated and revised both the school’s emergency response plan and communications used during a situation. However, action on the student’s part is also a necessary aspect of that plan.

“There were a number of students who never got the e2Campus safety message because they weren’t signed up,” she said. “Sign up for e2Campus; it’s a great system we need to use in conjunction with other forms of communication.”

Students have reacted to the event in numerous ways. Across campus, anonymous red posters were hung up urging students to ponder the event and whether there is an issue of race in the matter.

“Given that race matters in the society that we live in, I can see why some students raise the issue,” Johnson said. “However, race has not been a factor in the University’s handling of this case, period. Nor would I allow it to be.”

Some students have reacted by being more cautious and aware of the possible dangers that face them in their dorm rooms.

“I have become a little more cautious since this incident, locking my door even if I’m gone for two minutes,” first-year John Lyon said, “but at the same time I’ve never really felt like there’s been a concern for my safety on this campus.”

As for the students involved in the incident, disciplinary actions are still being debated. Colgate spokesman Charlie Melichar was quoted in an article by the Associated Press on Wednesday, December 12.

“The players were suspended from the team but are still enrolled in school,” Melichar said to the AP.

According to the AP, “He [Melichar] added that their academic status will be determined by the Student Conduct Board. Their future with the team will hinge on board’s review.”

For now, legal action is still pending on the arrests made, and it is unclear what may follow. However, the University has gained valuable experience on the handling of an urgent situation.

“We’re making efforts to make this a safe campus,” Johnson said. “Safety is the number-one priority. I just want to remind folks that it will take us all working together to ensure that this is the safest environment possible.”