Re: Yesterday's Shooting Hoax on Kingston Campus
Dear President Dooley:
I am an alumna and, if the professor's account and news reports are deemed true, I demand you expel the student who set off yesterday's series of events on campus.
I do not care if s/he is brilliant in academic terms, whether s/he has some type of impressive scholarship, or whether this is the first blemish on his/her record. Some actions should be one strike, and you're out.
Any student deemed college material by your admissions committee should have enough sense to know that one cannot yell "Fire!" in a crowded building.
Yelling, "I have a gun!" in an auditorium, no matter with what preamble or disclaimer attached, constitutes the same type of reckless disregard for the public safety.
You must not tolerate it.
Yesterday, I learned of the alleged shooter on the University of Rhode Island campus as many alumni did: the news popped into my social media feed. Word spread like wildfire that URI had a gunman on the loose in Chaffee Hall (the university's largest teaching building).
Thankfully, no reports of injuries came in, and Internet news outlets started speculating that the report was a hoax. Of course you had no choice but to lockdown the campus, cancel classes and other programming, and call in a swarm of law enforcement authorities—all of which caused needless anxiety, stress, inconvenience and money.
The yeller will have his/her defenders, who will argue that kids do dumb things, that they play stupid games. I would argue that perhaps any extra-curricular games in class need not be tolerated by professors and tuition-paying classmates, but that is secondary to my main point. Others might argue free speech rights, but long established case law indicates that free speech rights do not protect those who incite mass panic.
Sometimes dumb decisions result in serious consequences.
Send a message that you will not tolerate incitement of panic and the resulting risk to public safety.
Expel the student who yelled s/he had a gun in Chaffee Hall, and do it now, without apology.
Thank you, and best regards,
Mari Passananti, Class of 1995