On Saturday night, the Crown Street “vice district” — one block from Old Campus — erupted into violence. Shots were fired. Two shooters remain in critical condition. Another is still at large.
But you may not have heard about it.
After all, Yale made no efforts to alert its students of the dangerous exchange. The alert system that it so often tests was not activated, and no campus-wide e-mail was sent.
Officially, Yale didn’t have to notify us. According to Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Linder, the criteria that Yale uses to determine whether or not to send a campus-wide alert were not met: The act did not take place on Yale property, it did not directly affect members of the Yale community and, in the minds of Yale officials, there was not an imminent threat.
The News disagrees. There is a gunman still at large. The men were dangerous enough to shoot at policemen on the scene. Furthermore, the shooter was just down the street from buildings in which Yale students live and frequent. It was close enough to draw Yale police. Clearly there was a threat.
But even if all the suspects had been immediately apprehended, the Yale community still should have been told. Students in the Vanderbilt courtyard could hear the shots. And if they could hear the shots, they had reason enough to be worried.
This weekend, when a man shot himself at Harvard, officials there sent a campus-wide notification even though there was no continuing threat. Messages like these have a calming effect, which is both important and necessary after acts of violence.
To his credit, Assistant Police Chief Ronnell Higgins has been sending more detailed e-mails about campus crime than his predecessor, James Perrotti, did. He has also regularly informed the campus when the Yale Police Department has felt it necessary to add patrols for safety reasons. But detailed e-mails are only helpful when they are sent.
We recognize that blasting a warning over the loudspeakers or phoning students in the middle of the night was probably unwarranted. And we understand that the University has to weigh the benefits of alerting students against the panic doing so might cause. However, in this instance, sending a simple text message or e-mail, even the next morning, would have been beneficial.
Sending messages, of course, is not a solution to the problem of crime in New Haven. The recent shootings underscore the need for more efforts to reduce violence, especially gun violence, in the city. They offer reason to support Mayor DeStefano’s proposal to assign a special police unit downtown to maintain order outside bars and clubs. But when crime occurs, even when not directly on campus, we should hear about it.
Ultimately, Yale’s decision came down to a question of borders. Indeed, had the shooting occurred one block in almost any direction, federal law would have required that the University inform us.
But New Haven, as we are so often told, is a small city with community members spread all across it. When shots are fired within earshot of campus, the University should alert the student body. Even if the law doesn’t require it to do so.