When I discovered that Schottenstein Residence Hall on the Beren Campus had been broken into, my world screeched to a halt. Was this an anti-Semitic attack? Were we, as Jewish students, targeted? Was arson the actual goal of Peter Weyand? I began feeling severely anxious on campus. The warm environment suddenly felt cold. My trust in Yeshiva University as a safe institution, was lost. After further examination of the Schottenstein incident through news outlets and the security camera footage, some of my questions were alleviated, but even more pressing questions arose. The way our security dealt with the situation is baffling. For the record, I believe that the people of our security team are good-intentioned and kind-hearted. Converse with them and you can see their care for the student body. But being caring doesn’t stop an attack.
When I walked through campus the day after the break-in, I found myself looking at the guards and analyzing their effectiveness. I will not point fingers at specific people, but it is blatantly obvious that many of our guards do not have the ability to stop a real security threat. They are unarmed. Some are not in the physical shape required to deal with a potentially hazardous situation. Some of the guards are older. Assuming the guards are in physical and mental shape to stop an intruder, are they up-to-date on self-defense techniques that will ward off attackers? What’s the protocol they have to stop someone?
I was also surprised to observe that during the Schottenstein break-in, the guard did not engage the intruder. This is horrifying. What if he had a weapon? What if Weyand actually had malicious intent? Security released a timeline of what happened, stating, “Recognizing that he posed a potential threat, Security immediately called 911.” The guard did not attempt to physically stop the intruder, and when he entered the building, they called for backup. Once Weyand gained entry, he ran into the lounge where he was trapped from exiting. A few minutes later, the NYPD arrived and detained him. The outcome could have been catastrophic. It could have been deadly. The YU administration must answer these questions — are students really safe, or do we just tell ourselves that? We, as Jews, are targeted with lethal force far too often. We saw it in Pittsburgh. We saw it in Jersey City. We saw it in Poway. We saw it in Halle. It took NYPD officials eight minutes to arrive on-scene to the dorms. For someone with ill-intentions, that’s more than enough time to cause irreversible, catastrophic damage.
Our students live in the dormitories with the expectation and trust that they will be protected. Aside from actual physical safety, there is the very important aspect of mental safety. When people feel threatened or unsafe, it causes angst and worry. Sociologists have observed that this unstable feeling on campus could lead students to take measures into their own hands (i.e. bring in weapons or act in an unsafe way), which could be dangerous and detrimental to other students. We need to be able to feel safe on campus, the same way we feel safe at home. Yeshiva University, for the duration of your college careers, is your home. Shouldn’t you feel comfortable in your own home?
Something must change. It could be the protocol, the physical readiness of the guards, or even material means to halt the intruder. But to keep the status quo of subpar security measures, would be wronging all of the student body. I fully understand that this may cost YU money, but we have to weigh the question — what is worth more? Money, or the safety of our lives?