Most students at Hope College would agree that Hope is a tight-knit community, one that has created a safe environment somewhat separate from the outside world. Hope takes countless measures to ensure student safety, from blue emergency lights, 24-hour campus safety, a night-time shuttle, and friendly officers always ready to escort students back to their residence. The ideological conflicts and political disputes that plague the world today seem so far away from the reaches of the Pine Grove or Dimnent Chapel. For many, it’s easy to believe that campus exists in a vacuum, devoid of real-world disruptions aside from the occasional rumblings of the 6 a.m. train. This past Friday night served as a reminder to the Hope community how that is not true.
At 8:20 p.m. the Hope Alert system sent a message that read, “a dangerous suspect involved in violent crime is presumed to be in the area of 15th Street and College Ave. Take shelter until an all-clear is given.” Just forty minutes later, another Hope Alert was sent, stating, “Hope College is lifting the lockdown status.” Over the weekend, more information was released through Hope’s website which included a brief update that indicated that the cause for the warning was due to an incident that occurred on 15th and Central involving an armed suspect believed to be in the area (the location in the alert was slightly different). Various news outlets have reported that an 18-year-old male victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was in critical condition. He was sent initially to Holland Hospital, then transferred to Grand Rapids. Police searched the area with a K-9 but could not find the suspect. The Office of Campus Safety states that “it does not appear that any Hope students were involved in the situation.”
So what does this mean for Hope? Having an incident like this happen so close to campus is startling for anyone, in particular for Campus Safety. The Hope Alerts are an excellent way to communicate any dangers to the on-campus community, but even those warnings are not perfect and they can’t ensure students’ safety 100% of the time. Alerts only give information on potentially dangerous situations and trust that students will think and act with their own well-being in mind. There are also considerations being made about the role of a campus safety officer, not only in creating a safe campus but by serving as an authoritative presence, but protecting Hope community members. Many students think of campus safety officers as the kind and understanding staff who lets them into their residence hall when they have forgotten their ID or those they call for help in a medical emergency, but seldom are they thought of as Hope’s first line of defense.
Students frequently want to concentrate solely on their lives at school. After having worked so hard to get into college, it is normal to want to enjoy the experience of immersing oneself in campus life. But college is also a time for students to explore and prepare themselves for the future as a part of a global society where relationships with others are not just a byproduct of campus life, but an essential facet of success and collective well-being. There is no such thing as the Hope College “bubble”—every student is a part of the greater Holland community, and the events of last Friday, as well as other similar incidents, should be concerning for all who call this place their home.