By Emily Walker, Olivia McKelvey, Kevin Boodoosingh
In response to Florida Tech’s Clery violations, students organized a protest on Dec. 2 outside the Student Union Building.
Adam Bettencourt, Natalie Tria and Stephan Kenneavy worked together to organize the protest. They shared information on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat about when and where the protest would be held.
“At this point, we’re trying to share the school’s apathy of these issues because we saw on social media how many people reposted the article and seemed outraged by it,” said Bettencourt, a senior in mechanical engineering. “But when I started throwing up the link for the protest and things like that, there was a whole lot less interest at that point when it came to actually doing anything about it.”
Bettencourt said he emailed Rodney Bowers, the dean of students, to tell him about the protest’s purpose and find out if there were any specific rules they had to follow. According to Bettencourt, the dean replied with the link to the university’s policy on protests.
Bettencourt said they wanted to hold the protest in front of President T. Dwayne McCay’s office; however, according to Florida Tech’s guidelines regarding demonstrations and dissent, demonstrations may only occur in Panther Plaza.
Students held the protest all day Monday, standing in front of the panther statue with signs. Participation numbers varied throughout the day, ranging from six to 10 students protesting at times.
Adrian Haley said at one point, people challenged the purpose of their protest.
“We had one person who was saying, ‘I’ll give you guys a wager—you guys have to convince me in the least amount of words why I should care, and if you fail, you owe me a dollar,’” Haley said.
Tria, a senior in forensic psychology, said others approached them with questions regarding how they knew rapes had actually occurred on campus. She went on to say that students should not be concerned with whether or not the rapes occurred, but with the fact that they were reported by students and that they did not appear on Florida Tech’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.
While the protest was happening, potential future students of Florida Tech were touring the university.
“I see people touring the school, and I’m sitting here like, I don’t know if you want to come here—I don’t know if I can recommend this school to you,” said Alice Shepard, a senior in forensic psychology. “It has a great education, but what if you get assaulted and no one does anything about it?”
Shepard also said that tour guides had been been told by administration to try to keep the potential future students away from the protest.
Tria said one of her biggest concerns is the effect a lack of reporting on sexual offenses will have in the future.
“I think there are going to be people that see that it hasn’t been reported, see that the numbers have been zero for three years—not just one year where it got overlooked but for the past three years—and they’ll think, ‘I won’t get caught, so I’ll do whatever I want,’” Tria said.
Shepard added that she thinks the zeros on the 2019 Annual Annual Security and Fire Safety Report will discourage people from making reports in the first place.
“It makes you stuck in that sort of, ‘I’m a victim and I’ll always be a victim because no one’s going to help me and no one cares,’” Shepard said. “That’s awful to have to live with.”
Tria said throughout the process of organizing the protest and while they stood outside, their goal was not to place blame, but to find answers.
“We don’t want a scapegoat,” Tria said. “We just want to know who’s responsible, because there’s no way that people saw those zeros and just decided that those were okay, because that’s not realistic.”
Shepard went on to compare how the university was releasing inaccurate crime data to students, staff and facility in relation to how engineers manage data and reports for rocket launches.
“You don’t want to launch a rocket at SPACEX and not have the right data included in the report,” Shepard said.
At 5:04 p.m. Monday evening, McCay sent an email to the campus community, stating, “A thorough, internal review of all crime data for the past three years is ongoing. We will also partner with an outside consultant to ensure the review is comprehensive, accurate and transparent. When this review is complete, the university will pursue the mechanisms available under the Clery Act to report corrected data.”
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