We are not safe

I’m a junior at the College and for the first time all year, I went to sleep scared. In light of what’s been happening on campus, I find myself questioning how protected we really are at the College. We all think of our campus as a bubble, impenetrable and safe from harm. This has, I assure you, never been the case, and with John Fiocco missing, I am starting to see many students, both male and female, question how safe they feel.

Please don’t misunderstand this letter as an attack on Campus Police. Rather, my ideas focus on correcting existing problems with our facilities (including parking garages and residence halls). I’m writing because I want to propose some ideas about safety. Although I doubt my suggestions will be heard, I want students to begin thinking about protecting themselves and fellow students. Our campus is not invincible, and as the students who attend this institution, we need to start making this college the safe place we once thought it was.

Heather Herman

Mother concerned for students

I am the mother of twin girls, sophomores on campus. Needless to say, I am deeply saddened by the unfolding story of the disappearance of John Fiocco. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his family.

The recent scrutiny that has befallen the campus is a serious cause for concern. As you may be aware, access to the campus grounds is unrestricted, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Until this tragedy happened, I was not aware that after two or three in the morning, there are no “security personnel” (students checking keys of anyone entering a residence hall) detailed to work in the residence halls. Rather, the students gain entry by swiping their student ID cards. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

What if someone waited by the door for the next student to enter and the student innocently lets them in? What if someone accosted a student as they were swiping their card and forced their way into the building to either harm that student or someone else? What if a student who resided in the residence hall had a score to settle and allowed others to accompany him into the building to settle it?

Given the widespread media attention this tragedy has brought and the fact that the dorms are not secured in the wee hours of the morning, the potential for some opportunistic, criminal-minded person to find that information appealing is clearly in the realm of possibility. This is not acceptable. Active car and foot patrol detail on the grounds in the evening hours is warranted as well. Clearly, the College needs to rectify its unconscionable lack of security immediately and permanently.

I am sending copies of this letter to the president of the College, the Board of Trustees, miscellaneous “security” personnel and my daughters. My daughters have loved their experience at the College. I want to keep them and all students as safe as is humanly possible.

My prayers are with the Fiocco family.

Sheila Cavallo, mother of students at the College

Wikipedia is fine

I would like to clear something up concerning my March 22 Opinion article “Sheehan uses publicity for hidden agenda” and Chris Zimbaldi’s response. Although Wikipedia was used as a source in my article, there were credible sources mentioned in the article – The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe. So even though Wikipedia was used as a source (which I have had professors approve for intense research papers), I also used other sources from within the site. Perhaps instead of disputing the sources, Zimbaldi should dispute the facts. But then again, they are all true, so there is nothing to debate over Cindy Sheehan’s true colors.

Shaina Basile

Apartment update

Since joining the College as the vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, one question has been asked of me countless times and by a multitude of individuals: What’s going on with the student apartments?

For a little more than a year, the only response I could offer was that we were in negotiations with Liberty Mutual Surety about a takeover agreement for the project. That doesn’t mean a lot to most people, and, to those who aren’t familiar with the construction industry, it means even less.

Thankfully, though, I now have an answer that everyone can understand: We have reached a settlement agreement and are ready to move forward.

Just recently, Liberty Mutual agreed to provide the College with a lump sum payment of $18.5 million. That payment, in essence, makes the College whole by refunding our expenditures to date related to the student apartment complexes. It also allows us to develop a plan for appropriate housing facilities on the dormant construction site and set that plan in motion.

“Great news, but what took so long?” you might ask. Getting a deal that made sense for the College and its students is what took so long, and patience has paid off.

Since substantial work on the apartments halted back in November of 2004, we have been engaged in negotiations aimed at recouping lost assets and freeing the College to contract a new project team that could deliver the quality facilities our students deserve.

Roughly a year ago, the settlement offer we were presented was for less than one-third of the amount we have now agreed upon. Had we rushed this process and accepted that offer, the College would have absorbed an enormous financial loss. Had we taken an alternative route and broken off negotiations, we would have become embroiled in litigation that likely would have gone on for several years and cost millions of dollars, prohibiting us from advancing the project and addressing our on-campus housing needs.

Nobody is happy with the status of this project, not I, not President Gitenstein, not the Board of Trustees and certainly not the students, but this agreement is good news for everyone. We have been refunded our costs to date, and we are free to build the facilities that our students need.

There is a lot of planning that must be done before you will see tangible progress, so I ask for your continued patience. We still have a long road before us, but at least the light at the intersection has turned from red to green.

Curt Heuring,

vice president for Facilities

Management, Construction

and Campus Safety

Media ethics

In her March 29 article “Political Groups Debate War on Terror,” Michelle McGuinness misquoted me. Although I believe that the National Security Agency (NSA) may possibly be monitoring political activists, I did not make that claim because there is currently no evidence to substantiate such an allegation. Rather, I said that the FBI had abused the broadened surveillance powers granted under the USA PATRIOT Act. According to over 2,300 pages of internal files from the FBI, released as part of the ACLU’s series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, the agency has been monitoring 150 protest and social groups, including PETA, Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers.

Furthermore, I didn’t call the NSA wiretaps an “ominous revelation,” although I believe they represent the seeds of totalitarianism within the federal government. Rather, the “ominous revelation” I spoke of was the Bush administration’s disregard for the Posse Comitatus Act, which embodies the common-law principle of the separation of military and civil authority.

I agree with other students present at the debate that the media was invented to be the watchdog of the government. But, we must constantly examine the accuracy of the media, lest it become a tool for distributing government propaganda. For the public to remain objective and correctly informed, we must demand that all news be fair and accurate.

John Leschak