By Noel DiBenedetto
As a student of color, 19 year-old sophomore Branden Black said it’s hard for him to feel safe on campus after the recent fatal stabbing of a 19-year-old HSU student just off campus.
“We claim to a be a school of diversity and inclusion but I don’t see it,” Black said. “That could have very well been a racially motivated attack, and the fact that something like that could happen to me, that my life could end in a matter of seconds, doesn’t make me feel safe walking home every day.”
Just over two weeks ago, David Josiah Lawson was murdered April 16 at a party located close to campus. Lawson was president of Brothers United. Charges against 23 year-old McKinleyville resident Kyle Zoellner were dismissed Friday, May 5, due to what a judge called a lack of evidence.
Now, grief stricken students are left in shock, and some are questioning whether or not they actually feel safe on their own campus.
HSU represents itself as a peaceful and earth-loving community that aims to promote diversity and inclusiveness for all of its students, which is why some may find this recent attack so hard to swallow.
Many students of color have also expressed feeling a lack of support from their institution, and feel as though they are simply treated as bodies that help boost HSU’s diversity numbers. The loss of Lawson has perpetuated these feelings.
Although the university has put effort in to reaching out to students, making sure they are provided with counseling services and emotional support, whether or not they have made changes in their security measures remains unclear.
Business student Christian Antuna, 22, said that, for the most part, he feels safe on campus during the day, but suggests that security and university police should be more active around campus at night.
“I constantly see campus security during the day, but never at night, and I think that’s a problem,” Antuna explained. “After 10, it seems like they’re dormant or something, and it can get pretty sketchy around here at night.”
While the attack happened off campus, university police has jurisdiction within a mile in all directions around HSU’s campus, which covers a lot of ground including Spear Avenue where Lawson was murdered.
Many witnesses of the attack have expressed their extreme frustration with how the police and paramedics chose to handle the situation once they actually got there, which some say took far too long in the first place.
Records show that police arrived on the scene within one minute of receiving the first 911 call. The first EMTs were on the scene within seven minutes. During that interval, several of the individuals present felt as though the police were blatantly ignoring their cries for help, and that they focused too much on keeping things under control, rather than trying to save Lawson.
While an event like this would cause anyone to feel uneasy about going out at night in their community, several students on this campus still feel as though there isn’t enough being done to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
Associate Dean of Students Christine Mata thinks that part of the answer lies in strengthening the ties between the community and the students, and strengthening the line of communication between the students, and the institution.
“Improving our safety means we have to create that sense of community, we have to know what our resources are, and we have to be there for each other,” Mata said. “We really need to create that sense of taking care of each other, and being there for each other. I think that’s really important, especially during a time like this.”