Untimely Notice Sparks Fear on Campus

The Colgate community received a Campus Alert e-mail on Monday, November 12 relaying information on an incident that had occurred two days earlier, between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. near the Parker Apartments.

At the time the campus buzzed with rumors, including a supposed mugging that occurred downtown.Campus Safety was able to confirm that this incident was an argument that led to a physical altercation rather than a mugging.

Both Campus Safety and Administration declined any further comment on the “Timely Warning” email due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

The text of the e-mail stated how “a witness reported that four unknown males appeared to be kicking something or someone on the ground near a red car. The four males then placed what appeared to be a person in the backseat or trunk of the car. The four then got into the car and left the area.”

The e-mail reached the campus community at 9:03 p.m.

“Soon I started hearing things about a couple that also got beat up,” first-year Sabina Young said.

Other students reportedly put the warning out of mind more quickly.

“The email came out two days after the ‘kidnapping’-if someone had actually been kidnapped there would have been missing person reports, we would have known. So I kind of assumed it was some sort of initiation or prank right away,” sophomore Matt Carter said.

Two weeks after the timely warning was sent out, Campus Safety Chief Bill Ferguson had little more to say about the incident.

“The investigation is still under way,” Chief Ferguson said. “We do know that no students went missing after Saturday. We have done numerous interviews, but no one has come forward yet with information. We have our suspicions of course, but have not been able to confirm anything.”

According to Chief Ferguson, the campus-wide email was not unusual for a situation like this; in fact, it was required under federal law, based on stipulations in the Clery Act.

The Clery Act is a federal law, originally called the Campus Security Act, requiring colleges and universities to disclose information about any criminal activity in and around their campuses. With various amendments in 1992, 1998, 2000 and 2008 the law now has a broad reach, demanding everything from an emergency response system and timely warning notices to the protection of “whistleblowers” and rape victims.

“Under the Clery Act, we have a responsibility to put warnings out about this type of thing,” Chief Ferguson said. “The email took longer because first we have to determine whether it was an actual event or not. In this case, we got to the point in our investigation when we thought it was necessary to let the community know, so they could take personal precautions. But we still haven’t determined whether criminal conduct was taking place in the incident-this is the type of thing that may never come to a close.”

“I feel like it was a little intimidating to receive an email like that,” senior Noah Samuels said. “While I understand that they’re trying to keep us informed, the only result is that people will feel less safe on campus.”

Knowledge of the Clery Act stipulation was not common among Colgate students prior to the timely warning, and many felt that the email managed to prompt more questions than it answered.

The campus buzz about the incident’s potential connection to a Broad Street mugging, on the other hand, proves to be completely unfounded. Unlike the “kidnapping,” Campus Safety knew the details of the assault that took place on Broad Street from the outset.

“A male and a female couple were walking and found themselves in a verbal altercation with a group of students, which led to a physical altercation. The event was what we would classify as harassment rather than assault,” Chief Ferguson said.

“This event occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday November 11th and was reported to us the next day at 9:30 pm by the female party,” Chief Ferguson said. Since the couple did not want anything further to be done, Campus Safety had no role beyond recording the report.

Contact Rebekeh Ward at [email protected]