Students Need More Transparency from FIUPD

The FIU Police Department says it’s committed to providing a safe environment to foster the goals of education and research. However, it could do a better job of communicating when the University isn’t safe for students.

On Wednesday, August 28, a leaked screenshot of a WhatsApp group chat showed a student threatening to “walk into class” with an assault rifle. The threat was made in response to what seemed to be an argument with another student. 

The image circulated around Twitter, causing panic among students.

One Twitter user “gi” tweeted, “if anyone goes to fiu stay safe tmrw that whole gun threat is so scary im contemplating staying at home bc i have a class in gc.”

“apparently, an FIU student threatened to shoot up the GC building tomorrow wtf???? I have a class there tomorrow this is sick,” said Twitter user “Queen of the Gas Station.”

In a phone conversation with PantherNOW, FIUPD said they were alerted to the threat in the morning but did not tweet about the incident until 3:18 p.m. that day.

That’s hours of students and professors worrying without clear message from FIUPD. Even if the threat wasn’t imminent, police should have sent an alert to let students know what to do.

Students and faculty alike were anxious and confused about the nature of the situation before the alert was released. Because of this panic, some classes were cancelled. Rumors about a shooting in GC and questions on the validity of the screenshot were also spread. At a time of ongoing hurricane preparations, this only increased the stress felt by those at the University.

Though we understand that the investigative process shouldn’t be rushed and that early announcements could potentially cause panic, students are more panicked when they know nothing and only have rumours to go off of. 

Last year FIUPD did not alert students after the  assault at the MAST@FIU high school on the Biscayne Bay Campus until later in the day. The original incident was reported to have occurred at 10:30 a.m. on September 10, 2018, according to FIU Police Chief Alexander Casas, but the alert wasn’t sent out through email until 2:57 p.m. 

This happened a few months after President Mark Rosenberg called the Biscayne Bay campus a safe place following the MAST@FIU assault.

However, on February 9, 2018, FIUPD apprehended two suspects in a stabbing incident at Tamiami Park near Modesto Maidique Campus. An alert to students was released by the police department less than an hour after the incident, which occurred around 6:30 a.m.

The inconsistency with FIUPD’s alerts could impact campus safety and trust with the FIUPD. 

It’s also not a good image to portray when, according to a list compiled by the National Council for Home Safety and Security this year, FIU was ranked 342 out of 490 for the safest colleges in America. 

Alerting students to ongoing incidents as early as possible is important to keep students out of the dark, especially during an emergency. In the end, increasing transparency is the best way to maintain student safety, and alleviate anxiety.