During the week of Oct. 17, Castleton State College was struck by a string of false fire alarms and falsely activated emergency blue lights. Two weeks later, the campus was hit with a bout of vandalism, prompting college officials to send out two campus wide e-mails asking for students’ help.
“We need the eyes and ears of our community. You can make a difference,” stated an e-mail from Dean of Students Gregory Stone.
According to Dennis Proulx, director of Residence Life, such e-mails are not common. However, these two were meant to give students a bigger picture of safety issues since a pattern was seen in the activation of the fire alarms and blue lights.
“I was afraid of group mentality,” said Proulx of the false alarms. “The e-mail was meant for educating.”
The primary dormitories targeted for the false fire alarms were Ellis, Haskell, Adams and Castleton halls.
“I think that even though those that did it thought it was in good fun, in reality it was just plain childish,” said freshman Caitlyn McKenna, a Haskell resident. “It was just extremely annoying for all those forced to leave their dorms.”
Vandalism incidences included garbage cans being knocked over and smoke canisters being ruined.
“We have a small number of students that think that’s funny. It’s disrespect for property,” Director of Public Safety Bob Godlewski said of the vandalism.
Godlewski said that public safety has not received any e-mails from students with information regarding those responsible and he said there is no proof that the vandalism and alarms are related.
“I believe the vandalism is occurring by a few individuals and affecting everyone in a negative way,” said Proulx.
A major concern with so many false fire alarms is the “cry wolf” syndrome, according Proulx and Godlewski, meaning students will get desensitized to the alarms, which could be problematic in the event of a real fire. The main worry is that people won’t react and response time will go down. Also, there is the concern that the false alarms will take public safety offices away from something more pressing.
Godlewski believes there needs to be more active participation from students and has talked to some groups about a sort of neighborhood watch. He said that really the only way to catch people is through help, and if students know they are being watched, they will be less inclined to cause trouble.
Despite the vandalism and false alarms, Proulx sees the year as starting out well.
“I think we’ve had a great start,” he said. “There is a pocket of extremism but, generally, we’ve started well and I like how the community is developing.”
Godlewski, who hopes October break will calm things down, agrees and sees the acts as normal.
“What we’ve seen in the first five weeks is typical behavior,” he said, although he added that there have been more incidences than the recent past. “It’s typical behavior not condoned by us.