We need to trust our community: Editorial

Posted by the Editorial Board

On Friday, April 8, a group of vandals defaced five cars parked in Northwoods Lot, spray-painting offensive epithets and causing thousands of dollars of damage. With no witnesses and little evidence brought to light so far, the perpetrators could very well go unpunished.

This isn't the first shocking case of vandalism seen on campus this year. Even aside from the long lists of instances investigated by Campus Safety or emailed out in the Bias Incident Reports, extreme cases have caught the community's eye. In just one night last October, there were more than $200,000 of damages inflicted on the Northwoods Apartments construction site and the Center for Sex and Gender Relations.

In both of these cases, and as is likely with this most recent crime, the vandals were never found.

News of attacks like these shocks a campus community accustomed to considering itself free from crime. This is a campus where laptops are left unattended in the library, wallets turned into Campus Safety and dorm-room doors kept unlocked. Students wander the campus alone until the early hours of the morning, never questioning whether doing so is unsafe.

To see members of the campus or local communities betray that sense of trust is frightening; the fact that these attacks frequently include reprehensibly offensive hate speech makes it all the more so. Is this really a campus where you might return to your car and see the word "fag" written across the windshield? What do instances of vandalism like these say about the college we attend?

These are good questions, and ones we expect to see pursued in campus conversations that reflect on how these attacks fit into a larger picture of violence and prejudice at Skidmore. We hope, too, that these conversations might touch on how to better the college's relationship with the Saratoga Springs community, as members of the local area might also have played a role.

But this crime also needs to be addressed with specific and immediate action. Campus Safety should begin installing video camera surveillance of areas that—like Northwoods Lot and the area surrounding the Center for Sex and Gender Relations—are isolated during the weekend nights where these crimes most commonly occur. This investment of resources, while potentially dear, might be the difference between catching the parties responsible and, as in the last cases of vandalism, failing to do just that.

Campus Safety officers might also increase their nightly rounds taking them through these isolated areas, allowing them to head off crimes before they occur. If this means that they might not be able to respond to every noise complaint in the dorms, we know these officers will make the right choice. In anyone's book, catching the student holding a baseball bat and a can of spray paint is a better bust than writing up the first-years settling in with a six-pack and a deck of cards.

We hope officers will continue to consider new strategies that will ensure that students feel safe on the campus and that administrators will allocate the funds necessary to aid them. Using whatever means necessary, we need to preserve the sense of safety and trust that makes this college, for four years, our home.

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