STAFF EDITORIAL: Eastern officials need to be more transparent

Staff Editorial

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Eastern received a threat to campus Tuesday morning from a crisis hotline, which prompted the university to issue an alert to students, faculty and staff, which said only that a “security threat” had been issued to campus.

All that the Eastern community was told was a “security threat” was received and that police were investigating the matter.

While we at The Daily Eastern News commend Eastern for sending out the alert, the community needed more than just a “security threat” had been received.

In today’s climate where tragedy so often strikes, an alert like this one was sure to put people on edge. While we recognize the threat delivered to Eastern was “vague” and “unspecified,” we needed more from Eastern than just a “security threat.”

People did not know whether or not it was safe to be on campus, whether it was safe to go to class and they did not know what the nature of the threat was. Was it someone with a weapon? Someone with other means to harm people? Someone just making a general threat? Were they targeting a specific building or group of people?

Even if the Eastern administration did not know the answer to those questions, that still should have been communicated to the community. In situations like this one, no precaution is too far and people need as much information as they can get, even if that information is, “We do not know specifics of the threat.”

Equally disappointing was the handling of information by senior Eastern officials.

Both University Police Department Chief Kent Martin and Vice President of Student Affairs Lynette Drake declined to comment during the day on the threat and instead directed questions to Eastern’s media relations.

We appreciate the cooperation of Eastern’s media affairs office and its communication with The Daily Eastern News, but we condemn both Drake and Martin for their referring of the situation to media affairs.

During a time when people are scared and looking for answers to a number of important questions, it should be the responsibility of those in charge to answer those questions and be transparent with the public which they serve.

Martin, being the chief of Eastern’s in-home police department, should be held to that standard more than anyone. Even if his answer is that the investigation is ongoing or that they are still searching for information, as chief and that face of Eastern’s Police Department, Martin should have an obligation to speak to the public.

Drake, too, should see the value in addressing the public.

Seeing those in power at public institutions speak during times of high anxiety is calming to the public and is important to keeping people informed and safe.

For Martin and Drake to direct questions to media affairs is an abridgment of their public duties during times like these.

And if the reason they could not speak is because it is Eastern’s policy to direct questions to media affairs, then that policy needs to be changed immediately.

For the sake of safety, something that was their “top priority” and the sake of transparency, officials at Eastern must be willing to have their voices heard on issues like this.

The Editorial Staff can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].