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Union Board, IUSG sponsor gun violence panel at Whittenberger Auditorium



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Ben Hunter, associate vice president for public safety and institutional assurance, speaks Nov. 13 at the Gun Violence at IU program in Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union. Hunter talked about the Clery Act and whether or not IU Police Department or Bloomington Police Department is responding to an event factors into what alerts IU Notify send out.  Colin Kulpa Buy Photos

IU Student Government and the Union Board sponsored a discussion on gun violence at IU at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Whittenberger Auditorium.

The program began with introductions by Union Board President Patricia Cornejo, Campus Action for Democracy President Zoe Layton and Student Body President Isabel Mishkin.

In her opening remarks, Mishkin addressed the Clery Act, a law that governs college policies regarding transparency on campus crime and statistics, and how it regulates the messages released by IU Notification system, popularly known as IU Notify, including the three different situations where information would be released: emergency alerts, crime notices and public safety advisories.

“A lot of this is defined federally,” Mishkin said. “IU is able to work within some systems and exercise some discretion, but a lot of this comes down from the federal government, which adds another layer here of what are we talking about when we’re talking about IU notifications.”

During this discussion, the more than 30 attendees were encouraged to ask questions of the panel, comprised of Mishkin and Ben Hunter, IU vice president for public safety and institutional insurance, in addition to making comments and listening and learning from the conversation.

The first question came from Maddie Dederichs, IUSG director of student life, who asked if the IU Police Department would begin initiating the IU Notification protocol when there is an ongoing crime where a lot of IU students are present, but IUPD is not at the scene.

Hunter said the Bloomington Police Department is often involved with off-campus matters, and IUPD does not always know what is going on.

The night of the Grant Street shooting, IUPD was requested by BPD to maintain the perimeter and was informed when the shooter was caught, Hunter said.

“In the verification of that incident, they were advised that, no, the shooter was in custody, there was no other immediate threat,” Hunter said.

For every incident, IU Notify makes sure that the threat is ongoing and continuous before a notification is sent, Hunter said. For Grant Street, IUPD had no knowledge of a second shooter and therefore didn't see an ongoing threat.

“What IU Notify isn’t: it’s not a news environment,” Hunter said. “I most certainly understand the frustration and desire of wanting more information, but that’s not the vehicle to send that out because IU Notify is sent out for immediate on-going threat to campus community.”

Throughout the rest of the discussion, multiple students asked further questions or made comments about being notified, safety on campus and discussed how students feel IU Notify can improve.

Freshman Anastasia Sullivan mentioned the role she felt IU should play in informing her and her fellow students.

“For me personally, and I think for a lot of us, even after the fact, like the next day, I would still like to hear it from IU to know that they are aware of the issue as well,” Sullivan said. “So, even if it’s just the information that the other news sources have, I would still like to hear it from IU.”

Senior Grant Mitchell, who lived in the Brickhouse where the shooting occurred in front of, stood up two times to ask questions regarding why IU Notify did not inform students of the second shooter and if the shooting occurred off-campus.

Mitchell said initially he had heard from IU spokesperson Chuck Carney that the shooting had taken place off-campus, but he was later informed by the Office of Deans that part of the reason the tenants were kicked out was because the shooting took place on campus.

“So, if you could just set the record straight: Did it or did it not take place on campus?” Mitchell said.

“It’s an off-campus property that’s owned by IU,” Hunter replied.

Hunter later discussed the role of IUPD and how they do not normally go off-campus. He talked about the balance of wanting to inform people and also respecting the families of those people involved.

Mishkin responded to comments or questions and reassured attendees that IUSG was listening to their complaints and taking them into account.

To end the program, two members of the local band Flowermouth performed a song. The two were invited to perform because the Grant Street shooting occurred in front of the Brickhouse, a well-known house show venue.

Singer Gus Gonzalez, who had spoken during the open discussion, got up and addressed the crowd before the song.

“I would like to ask that we all make a point to keep each other safe from now on and rather than point fingers, also accept responsibility,” Gonzalez said. “But also don’t ever be afraid to make yourself heard, don’t ever be afraid to make your demands heard because people will listen.” 

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