JAKE VILLAREAL ’17
From Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s determination to build a wall along the entirety of the US-Mexico border to the refugee crisis troubling the European Union, themes of borders and permissions have been dominating the news. Trinity College is a half-bordered campus: large black fences surround the east side of the campus while the west side’s entrances are open to the public.
As a prestigious liberal arts college in the residential section of Hartford, a city with a crime rate 220% higher than the national average (according to AreaVibes), Trinity represents the relevance of these debates on a local scale.
In 2012, a Trinity student named Chris Kenny ’12 was assaulted on streets surrounding campus while walking back to his dorm. The event sparked protests on campus, as well as a petition by a former student demanding an end to Trinity’s open campus policy.
The open campus policy, not officially codified, means that anyone can enter Trinity’s campus without registration. They can use the space for activities like frisbee, walking a dog, or biking across the campus. This includes Hartford residents and non-Trinity students. Of course, IDs and access codes are still needed for certain spaces.
The abolition of the open campus policy is still discussed among students and faculty at Trinity. In my seminar on security last semester, many students said that it would make them feel safer to have more guards and Campus Safety checkpoints at Trinity.
We live in a culture that treats punishment and prevention as the primary solutions for crime, especially violent crime. It’s easy and intuitive to react to tragic events with this mindset. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, where I’m currently living on a study-away program, made the decision this year to add 1,300 police officers to the force. This hiring decision was made despite massive protests, as well as a clear lack of funds in areas like welfare and education which would also prevent crime in the long term. I don’t think Mayor de Blasio’s tactic is effective.
I believe that not only should our remaining gates be taken down, but the Hartford community should be actively involved in the rich resources Trinity has been able to develop in order to create a safe campus environment.
I see no reason this infrastructure can’t be used to create a safer Hartford, or why Trinity and Hartford necessarily have to be separate.
The petition that was proposed was probably the most reasonable version of the “deter and punish” view. A gate would be erected with a number of entrances, patrolled by guards. Between the hours of 6pm and 6am, only people with an official Trinity ID could enter. Between 6am and 6pm, anyone could enter provided they have an official government-issued ID.
The obvious problem of optics is secondary to the issues I have with resource allocation. Some Hartford residents would probably understand the gate is meant to prevent crime by a few dangerous individuals, and others would be upset and see Trinity as even more of an ivory tower, disconnected from Hartford. I think that neither the criminals nor average citizens have any particular impact on Trinity or Hartford, except that there might be fewer volunteers going out into Hartford from Trinity.
I would also find it quite ironic if a college that, last year, hosted a panel on undocumented immigrants in higher education would require government-issued ID to enter its premises.
The bigger issue for me is that Trinity already has the resources, or can allocate the resources, to prevent crime in Hartford. However, it’s not by building more gates, or maintaining the walls we have now.
During orientation, Trinity students go through bystander intervention and sensitivity trainings. The P.R.I.D.E. and Safe Zone Programs are designed to help students create inclusive, safe spaces.
These are the measures that stop crime before it happens. By creating an inclusive community in which people feel supported by others and know how to keep each other safe, Trinity prevents violence every year. It’s not as outwardly impressive as self-defense, or sending someone to prison so they can’t harm people anymore, but they are all aiming for the same result.
I think negative attitudes towards the open-campus policy are also derived from a misconception about where crime occurs. The people who are most likely to steal from someone, sexually assault someone (according to RAINN), or attack someone are those closest to the victim.
The myth of the ski mask-wearing rapist in the bushes is just that. The vast majority of the crimes committed on Trinity’s campus, or even against Trinity students, are done by Trinity students.
I thought it was unusual that the petition to erect more gates around Trinity’s campus came in response to an attack that had happened while a student was returning from a party on Allen Street…an off-campus location.
When the instinct is to punch back and retaliate, it’s hard to see that extending a hand might be a better option. I believe that Hartford students in high school, college, and maybe middle school, should be invited to participate in Trinity’s orientation trainings, safe space trainings, and community workshops.
I feel like Trinity has already started on the right foot with its Learning Corridor.
I believe the Corridor will prevent more Hartford-on-Trinity crime in the long term by creating educated leaders, providing after-school activities, and building a Hartford community that includes Trinity, and I imagine it will be more effective than any more campus safety officers or gates. All the gates in the world can’t stop what happens off-campus.
This takes engagement. My complaint with the gates and extra guards constantly on patrol is not even that they are actively harmful on a meaningful scale, but that they would suck up money to do nothing.
Kenny has recovered since the attack. However, the suspects are still at large. The closest thing anyone has to go by was the suspect description provided by witnesses, sent out by the Hartford Police Department in an official press release.
Dear Trinity College, Tear Down Those Gates
JAKE VILLAREAL ’17
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