The Cavalier Daily
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EDITORIAL: Stop the rumor mill

<p>&nbsp;While these actions indicate the University’s undeniable commitment to safety, we as students still feel there is work that could be done — and it begins with increased communication and transparency.&nbsp;</p>

 While these actions indicate the University’s undeniable commitment to safety, we as students still feel there is work that could be done — and it begins with increased communication and transparency. 

As any student here could attest to, we are all too familiar with the words “community alert” popping up on our phones, so much so that we learn to tune it out. It becomes just another notification, often the butt of jokes on Yik Yak. But the attempted abduction earlier this month — which left one student hospitalized — cut through all of that. To the victim, the Editorial Board offers our support and empathy. For the rest of the University’s community, this incident has added to an ever-growing list of horrific crimes near Grounds. The University is home to north of 20,000 young adults — it is not just where we learn, but also where we live, work and are meant to feel safe. And if this most recent alert exemplified anything, it is that for many of us, we just don’t feel safe in our homes anymore.   

Our goal is not to shame the University, which has long demonstrated a commitment to safety. In February of 2015, the University implemented the ambassador program, increasing the presence of safety officers on Grounds. The University installed and continues to install blue light emergency phones all across Grounds, increasing the network of emergency communication. In recent years, the University, like other higher education institutions around the country, has had to deal with rising crime rates. Admirably, leadership has not shied away from combatting this issue. After five gun related homicides in Charlottesville between the beginning of 2022 and April 2023 — including the shooting last November which took the lives of our peers, D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr — the University partnered with the city of Charlottesville in order to combat crime. They doubled the police presence and created the Community Safety Working Group, which seeks to build stronger connections between the University and community at large. While these actions indicate the University’s undeniable commitment to safety — increasing police presence, for example, is not the kind solution that makes all students feel safe on Grounds. There is more work that the University can do, and we feel this begins with increased communication and transparency. 

The current system of notifying students of crime is the community alert system. After a crime occurs, the University applies a set of criteria to determine the degree of the threat to the community — a community alert email is sent to all of our University accounts depending on the results of this threat assessment. The emails can, and often do, come hours after crimes take place. With our proximity to the crimes in question, oftentimes students are witnesses to the crime or its immediate aftermath. With nothing but hours of silence from the University, rumor and conjecture spread quickly — we all hear the sirens, and social media platforms quickly devolve into cesspools of speculation. 

While we recognize that the hours after a crime takes place are hectic, the University needs to make informing its students a top priority, especially when the suspects of these crimes often remain at large and in the area. Utilizing the existing infrastructure of text message alerts with more condensed information in the immediate aftermath of a crime would allow students to stay informed and up-to-date with accurate information essential to their safety. Students should not have to rely on the misinformation that permeates social media and group chats or tune in to police scanners to try and stay safe. 

Aside from the email notifications, the University publishes a yearly report every October — the Fire Safety and Security Report. This report compiles all the crimes otherwise posted on the University Police crime log and provides detailed information that sheds light on how the University is working to keep students safe. While both the log and report are undoubtedly comprehensive, they are not easily digestible for students who want to get a complete picture of crime at the University. Instead of just a 160 page report published annually, it would be better to meet students where they are. A monthly email, for example, displaying the very same information in a more digestible format — utilizing graphics as opposed to dense paragraphs — would increase how accessible the information is to students. 

After last Spring’s shooting on Elliewood, the University held a virtual town hall where concerned students, parents and other community members could hear directly from administrators on crime and safety. This is a great example of meeting students where they are at — except the University only hosted one. These types of meetings help foster a transparent relationship between University leadership and those in the University community. Increasing their regularity would allow for students to more easily express their concerns directly with the people who can do something to address them. It should not take the worst of violence to create a space for students and University officials to engage in frank conversations about the state of safety at the University. 

In addition to informing students when crimes occur, the University can do more to prepare students for their occurrence. The same way that we do training modules about hazing and sexual assault, the University should create a module teaching students about ways to stay safe around Grounds — thus acknowledging that crime is something that students need to be equipped to deal with upon their arrival at the University. The module could also serve as a way for the University to inform students about its safety policies and procedures — many students, for example, have no idea why they are notified of some crimes and not others. Crafting safety modules will allow the University to take proactive steps to promote student safety while simultaneously increasing transparency and communication between the administration and the University community. 

We are not naive. We know this doesn’t fix the issue. As President Ryan said in a recent meeting with the University Judiciary Committee, there is no “silver bullet” that will solve an issue as complex and multifaceted as crime. Simply put, however, the current system leaves too much room for rumors and confusion to spread. The University owes it to its students to keep us as safe as possible, and that begins with proper communication.

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associates and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at


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