An Open Letter of Distress to the New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Dear NJIT,

With a heavy heart, I am writing this letter to you. I really want to be a proud Highlander, but it seems as if there is always something hindering this pride. I was extremely proud when NJIT made the news for being the #1 university in America to have the highest starting salary. I was even more proud when we made the news for the Michigan upset. However, recently, I have been very disappointed at my alma mater.

I get it. We go to school in Newark, and that there is always a chance of imminent danger. However, the minute we sign off on our intent of enrolling at NJIT, we put all our hope in our institution in protecting us from this danger. Whenever there is a shooting or robbery or any other misfortune, we are sent an email of the incident, sometimes with a description of the offender. We are also reminded that we do have NJIT public safety and given a number to call in case of an emergency. But, we rarely see an email providing reassurance that the offender has been caught or anything detailing the course of action that will be taken to prevent future situations. Actually, I only remember one time…ONE TIME…in my four year course at NJIT where the convict was actually caught. NJIT also has a police escort system that they love to remind us about constantly. But when it comes time to using this escort program, students are met with dilemma and a lack of cooperation from public safety. There was this one time a group of friends and I were coming back to school from a night out in the city. The lightrail wasn’t working; the Rutgers-Newark shuttle wasn’t in front of Penn Station; and we didn’t have enough money collectively to take a cab back. We did exactly what they tell us to do, we called public safety to escort us back to campus. At this point, the person we talked to told us to wait for the lightrail, look for the RU shuttle, or call a cab – options we already ruled out. We did get argumentative, but there was no outcome in our favor. So, out of options, we made the walk back from Newark Penn Station to NJIT at 3:30AM because our alma mater refused to come help us.

Why do I bring this 2013 event up? NJIT does have these programs to keep their students safe, but when it comes down to being there for us, we are met with disappointment over and over again. Thinking about that one night, I am so thankful we were all safe because so much could have happened to us. We could have been the subject of those NJIT Public Safety emails. What I went through isn’t anything new. Walk around campus and talk to students, and I guarantee that you will be met with the same complaints. NJIT students have come to accept that it will be futile to ask for help because, 9 out of 10 times, we will be met with noncompliance. We shouldn’t be comfortable with the fact that we won’t get the help we need.

Another thing that infuriates me about NJIT is that their solution for situations such as Joe’s murder is that they will be increasing the size of NJIT public safety. If I had a penny for every time I heard that solution…. I’m sorry that’s only a minor fix. It won’t help solve the whole issue at hand. NJIT public safety is always in multiple spots down the row, but stuff like what happened at the TKE house still occurs. I agree we do need more of a presence in areas like the Lightrail station and down the streets where students visit the most, but just adding more cops won’t be the end. We need our public safety officers to proactively be on duty 24/7. They need to not shy away when students ask for help. Not only do the students put all their trust in public safety, but our parents do as well. They send their children off with what is proving to be false guarantees that their children will be protected. Don’t get me wrong, I realize we have a few great officers, like DiFran, that I have the utmost respect for, but sadly that doesn’t carry over to the rest of the force.  It won’t matter if the number of the force increases. It’s quality over quantity. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

There also needs to be a better system of dealing with off campus housing. With the addition of the new Greek village, the houses down the row have suffered and been neglected. As a member of Greek life, I have first handedly seen the political battle that exists regarding the houses and Greek life in general. Most of the houses are in horrible conditions. They have broken doors and windows, making it possible for break-ins to occur. I feel as if, when it’s convenient for the school, they count these houses under NJIT jurisdiction, every other time they are ignored. In my honest opinion, wherever an NJIT student resides near the campus should be covered in NJIT’s safety policy at all times, whether it’s the dorm buildings, NJIT affiliated fraternity houses, or other NJIT recognized “off campus” housing. It is your responsibility, NJIT administration, to protect the inhabitants of these dwellings. The fraternities and sororities already do their part. Whenever we have parties, we inform public safety and allow them to monitor the house. We take precautions when letting people in our houses. But there is only so much we can do. Instead of throwing all the money we receive in donations and grants on new construction projects, put some money aside into fixing up the houses down the row. Those houses carry a lot of history with them, so I for sure know they will not easily be forfeited. So, the best thing that you can do is help those houses better safeguard their residents.

At the end of the day, I understand there is only so much we as an institute can do. People in California even know of the risks and danger that plagues the town of Newark. The problem is not enough that could have been done was done to prevent this from happening. We can’t fix all the problems that Newark struggles with, but we can do so much more to ensure that our little space in Newark is protected.  A student should not lose his or her life before strict action is being taken. This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. If steps were taken to be more proactive in protecting the safety of NJIT students, we wouldn’t need to be saying RIP to one of the greatest guys NJIT has ever educated.

In an earlier statement, Dr. Bloom said, “So we’re just going to step it up a bit. We’re going to invest in the technology and additional police officers.” Dr. Bloom, I respectfully have to say, a bit will not cut it. Please don’t take this matter lightly. The future and safety of all NJIT students and all who visit our campus depends on you.

Sincerely,
A Disappointed Student

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