SDSU students deserve answers regarding safety

Editorial Staff

Issue:  SDSU’s police department has not made its initial report from last week’s gun incident on campus public.



Every student has the right to know. That’s the basis behind one of the most important safety measures for college campuses in this country.  

The Clery Act, enacted in 1990, requires all colleges and universities that participate in financial aid programs to keep records with regards to crimes on college campuses. Each year, the university publishes an annual campus security report. Those have to be available to students by October 1, so expect to see some sort of alert soon about its availability. Police departments on campus are also required to keep a public log of the crimes that they have had reported to them and the ones they are aware of. The logs must have the nature, date, time and general location of each crime. Logs are to be kept going back for 60 days and any crime dating further in time than that is supposed to be accessible within two business days.

So when the Sept. 12 incident with a gun threat in Binnewies Hall locked down the building and sent campus police officers through the building on a tear, it put a lot of fear in the residents who live there and many more who are concerned about the safety of students who live there and elsewhere on campus. It was buzzing on Twitter and it was a big part of the campus conversation on Friday. 

In pursuit of hard facts in this case, we went to the UPD building to see at least the basic details of what happened. Something had to be filed on the matter, we thought. 

Not so fast.

Their personnel said all questions would have to be directed to police chief Tim Heaton. Heaton did not answer our numerous requests for comment prior to this issue’s print time. UPD also said there wasn’t an incident report available because the issue was still under investigation. They would not even offer any of the basic details on the incident, like that the call was made on a Thursday or that it involved Binnewies Hall. 

Instead, they directed The Collegian to university relations and then to Bob Otterson, the executive assistant to President David Chicoine. Otterson answered what he could on the matter and we’re appreciative of his help. 

But it never should have even come to that. Any person should have been able to visit the UPD offices in the following days and been able to get basic information via the logbooks. That’s the law. 

The Clery Act requires reports be available in a timely matter “on crimes considered to be a threat to other students and employees.” We would unequivocally say that an incident involving a gun is a threat to SDSU’s students and employees. The Student Press Law Center, an advocate for student First Amendment rights, says it’s common to allow for 24 hours for an initial report. We gave SDSU’s police three business days.

So what gives? Why does UPD not have answers to the unbelievably simple questions that federal law requires them to have? 

University police departments can withhold information if an ongoing criminal investigation would be interfered with. We don’t think that’s the case because our request was very basic and UPD officials seemed to skirt our questions at every turn.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this story is that it is only to affirm the SDSU police department did their job. And by all accounts, they did to the highest level that one can expect. We weren’t looking for intense details but only enough to confirm what we had already heard. 

If the investigation into the matter is still ongoing, fine. We’re not here to obstruct justice in this matter. When more details of this story emerge, we’ll be happy to report them. But students should have the very basic facts on this already and the fact that they do not is pretty embarrassing. 

Let’s say there was no social media to let us know that this was going on, no students talking about it: How exactly was the university going to tell us that there was a person with a gun on campus? Or do they think that it’s not that important to student safety?

Given the rate of gun violence in this nation and that there’s far too much of it on college campuses, why weren’t there emails in the inbox of every student at SDSU the next morning, explaining just what happened the night before and that they have it under control. Are we just going to act like this never happened?

The students of this university deserve far better. The fact that the SDSU’s police department can’t even address the public’s most basic inquiries reflects poorly on the institution as a whole. 



 Stance: The response to public inquiries from SDSU’s police department is not acceptable when it comes to student safety.