Listen to the sound of silence

Across the board this week, the story has been silence. While students at the College have been crossing campus, going to class, doing their homework, eating in the dining halls, they have been left with the wool pulled over their eyes.

We have seen five (5) patients – including a murderer and a Megan’s Law offender – escape from the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, a facility that borders the College’s Country Club Apartments, we have seen the state’s two gubernatorial candidates make appearances on campus, and we have seen Sodexho, our embattled food service provider, get its contract renewed without students being involved in the negotiations.

In all these instances – and more, we are sure – the College has displayed an unwillingness to inform the student body about pressing issues that oftentimes have a direct bearing on our lives.

* Trenton Psychiatric Hospital

The Country Club Apartments, the College’s off-campus housing alternative, is located within spitting distance of the Trenton Psychatric Hospital. In fact, the apartments used to exist as part of the 800-acre facility (which was originally known as the New Jersey Lunatic Asylum when it opened in 1848), serving as staff housing.

Since Aug. 30, when Michael Janicki was mistakenly given a day pass and left the facility, five patients, including Janicki, have escaped.

While, granted, three of the cases have been resolved (Janicki’s body turned up in a wooded area on the grounds a week later, one patient left and returned the same day, and the third, Christopher Hammell – a Megan’s Law offender, considered violent – was apprehended a day after his escape), two patients, David Mullins and Sandra Pressley, are still on the loose.

And aside from two campus-wide e-mails warning the community first of Hammell’s escape, then his subsequent apprehension, the office of Campus Police Services has done little to inform students about the escapes.

Notices were left on the doors of the Country Club Apartments, notices which, until students complained, did not include physical descriptions of the fugitives and, in the case of Janicki, did not note that he had a history of violence and was considered dangerous.

This is more than a matter of poor communication, it is something that could easily become a matter of life and death.

* The Gubernatorial Race

There have been several appearances by the state’s major-party gubernatorial candidates in as many weeks. Two occured when both candidates spoke at a New Jersey Presidents’ Council forum on higher education Monday, and another was a campaign stop by Sen. Corzine during which he outlined his platform for public primary education.

Admittedly, according to Matt Golden, assistant director for public information in the office of College and Community Relations, the Corzine campaign stop was arranged just two days before the event, but the fact that the student body at large was not notified – either by news release or e-mail – is inexcusible.

And, again, we admit, while the New Jersey Presidents’ Council forum was an invitation-only affair that The Signal was informed of approximately four weeks ago, the exact date and time were not made available until Friday afternoon. Nor was a news release posted about it until the morning of the event, urging students to watch a Web cast of the speeches on, the New Jersey Higher Education Network.

In both cases, students were uninformed of the candidates’ visits to campus. Given that students at the College were recently named the 13th least politically active by Princeton Review, one would think the administration would want to give us the opportunity to get face-to-face with New Jersey politics.

* Sodexho

Certainly, Sodexho is aware, at least partially, of the mounds of criticism heaped upon it by the student body at the College. And while, yes, we are glad to see some reforms being put into place this year, we are still troubled by the College’s continued relationship with the company. We are especially troubled that students were left out of the discussion that resulted in a two-year contract extension with the company.

Audrey Levine’s piece this week revealed some telling things:

For one, she reports that “incumbent” food service providers commonly get contract extensions because the company is familiar with the facilities and the student body.

Read: the College is expending such an inordinant amount of money and energy in construction-related litigation, that it lacks the resources to investigate bringing a new dining company to campus.

Second: Levine reports that Steve Hugg, district marketing specialist for Sodexho on campus, said that “student feedback has a bigger effect month-to-month than when the contract comes.” This seems a straight-up confirmation of the problem: there was no interest in making students a part of the process.