As the Boston Marathon tragedy lingers throughout America, the act of terrorism has hit students at Temple University a bit closer to home. Temple police issued an advisory to students and faculty last week regarding an ongoing investigation of a graffiti threat referencing the 14th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting massacre. The advisory stated Temple police are coordinating with Philadelphia’s Police Department, its Homeland Security Unit, and the FBI in order to track the source of the threat.
While it is reassuring that Temple police are aware of a possible threat, the comfort dissipates when you realize that officials have sat on this information for over a month. Even worse, speculation persists that the advisory would have never been sent if it wasn’t for Fox 29 News.
On Thursday April 11, Philadelphia’s Fox affiliate broke the news on its evening broadcast with images of the graffiti on the wall of a bathroom stall inside Gladfelter Hall. The first inscription says "April 20th I'll bring honor to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold,” the two Columbine shooters. The other inscription says "April 20th you will all learn the meaning of suffering."
Temple students expressed their shock and concern over social media, focusing on the lack of acknowledgement from university administration.
Suddenly, the advisory was issued the next day.
In this technological era, it is inexcusable for Temple’s administration to withhold information of such magnitude from the student body and faculty. Email, mass text message, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter … the modes of communication are endless. As a school with a nationally recognized communications program, maybe the professors should instruct their superiors rather than the students.
Obviously it would be unfair to judge Temple’s handling of the threat based off the Boston Marathon explosions; yet, there have been enough school shootings and terroristic threats over the past decade that even the slightest hint of violent activity deserves attention.
Playing devil’s advocate, I still can’t fathom why the authorities refrained from alerting the public for so long. I could see if they were worried about causing a mass panic on campus. I could also see if they were concerned about losing money from potential customers whom decide to stay home that day. However, the graffiti threat claims April 20 will be the day of destruction. April 20 is a Saturday. And if you have ever been to Temple on the weekends, you’ll wonder if the 40,000 member student body is an exaggeration.
Plus, April 20 is synonymous with 4/20, a day celebrated by stoners everywhere. The vast majority of students in the surrounding area will not be leaving their houses until the munchies arise. Unless the attacking graffiti artists plan to infiltrate Qdoba, they’re going to disappoint their Columbine idols.
Whether or not the “day of suffering” occurs, and I pray to God that it doesn’t, Temple police should learn from this experience and keep the community aware of potential threats. Imagine the public relations disaster that would have arisen if the Columbine tribute happened, and word got out that officials refused to prepare the students.
Even though marathons, movie theaters, and elementary schools have been plagued over the past year, we, as Americans, must resume our daily lives. We have rights to liberty and freedom. And Temple officials need to know about our right to protect ourselves from possible threats.