November 18, 2010

Risk Management, Not Captain Hindsight

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Following three forcible touching incidents and several burglaries in Collegetown, there has been much discussion about the University’s response. Students questioned CUPD’s right to check IDs, the Women’s Resource Center held a rally to stop violence against women and The Sun published an editorial criticizing the administration’s response as “underwhelming.” What’s missing from all these discussions is the effective means to prevent events such as these in the future.

It’s great to be Captain Hindsight. For those of you who do not subscribe to South Park’s adolescent humor, Capt. H. is a made-up superhero that arrives on the scene of the crime after it has occurred and offers corrective measures which, if enacted before the event, would have thwarted the criminal. All the discussion of what could have been done better by the University is worthless without a clear strategy on how to proceed. The risk of violence at Cornell will never go away, so like an earthquake, we have to prepare for it.

But how? Risk management is the price that we as a society must pay in advance. I chair the University Assembly Codes and Judicial Committee, which includes representatives from the Employee Assembly, Student Assembly, Faculty Senate, the chief of Cornell Police Kathy Zoner and Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant, and we have discussed at length what the University can do to prevent future crime sprees. The administration, which the editorial claims “has failed to send out a single e-mail addressing concerns about personal safety,” has little or nothing to offer a community that does not take measures to become risk-averse.

We love to have libraries and lecture halls that are open to the public for 12 or 24 hours a day, but we hate it when our belongings are stolen in those freely open places. Therefore, we must pay in advance by reporting suspicious activity, inconveniencing ourselves that one bit to ask that Libe Café acquaintance to look over our things while we run to the bathroom, or just being more vigilant and less forgetful.

The editorial criticized CUPD’s canvassing for leads on Nov. 8 as “trying to find a needle in a haystack,” but what other resources does a police force have to pursue an investigation if witnesses don’t come forth with information? People need to remove the stigma associated with talking to the police and come together as a community to combat this threat. Volunteering information is just one part of this.

Oftentimes, a crime spree is the work of a single individual. Each individual case cannot be solved alone without making links from snippets of evidence from a string of related cases. A large number of thefts from Olin library in 2008-2009 were attributed to one single suspect, who is now sitting in jail. In a past case of sexual violence, one serial “date” rapist was charged only after multiple, unrelated victims came forth with the same story and allegations.

People need to trust the system in order to empower it. If you hear or experience something suspicious, do not hesitate to notify the police or any administrator. It is only with the community’s help that we can make changes to prevent the mistakes of the past.

The CJC is charged with making amendments to the Code of Conduct and staffing and training the University Hearing Boards. Our meetings are open to the public and we welcome opinions submitted in writing.

Gleb Drobkov is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at gvd7@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Gleb Drobkov