OPINION: Reducing students’ fears to a ‘Halloween prank’ certainly sends a message — albeit, the wrong one


Emma Andrus

My keychain, featuring my wallet and a variety of self-defense tools: cat-shaped “brass knuckles,” a self-defense alarm, a blunt object and pepper spray.

Emma Andrus, Editor-in-Chief

After a man wearing a baby mask in all black reportedly knocked on their doors, wiggled their doorknobs and chased them up stairwells in Centennial Court F, a group of frightened female students filed a report with the Kent State Police.

The students also said the man wielded a kitchen knife, but the subsequent police report and resident assistant statement contradicted this.

KentWired received a tip the next day about the situation. As the editor, I immediately felt the newsroom fill with a sense of dread and uncertainty as the information was shared. In a place typically full of camaraderie and laughter, we certainly weren’t amused.

We were joined in the understanding this was a serious incident — many of us, myself included, were immediately concerned not only for the safety of our peers and friends, but for ourselves.

It remained unclear whether or not the masked man was a student living in the residence hall, or even a student at all, but we all wondered the same thing: What are the university and police going to do to make students feel safe in light of this?

Kent State Police issued a statement on Oct. 6.

Holding my breath, I opened the email statement ready to reassure my peers, and myself, that action was going to be taken against the masked man. But I found myself severely let down.

“Kent State Police investigated and deemed this to be Halloween pranking,” the statement read.

Based on the statement and a follow-up call with Kent State Police on Oct. 19, there is no indication the masked man was ever found or identified. With this in mind, how can one decide there was no malicious intent?

Only a year ago in October of 2021, multiple social media reports surfaced of men wearing ski masks and entering residence halls, banging on doors and shutting off hallway lights led to police identifying the men involved.

The men also engaged in social media posts where they threatened to enter residence halls with weapons and incited fear among students. Residence assistants were so frightened they refused to go on their assigned security walks.

It is unclear whether the men were disciplined or arrested beyond being identified — if they were, it wasn’t shared by either University Housing or Kent State Police.

Just four days after the initial incident — or two days after we received the statement from Kent State Police — we received another tip from a student GroupMe chat that said the masked man had made another appearance and that police were on the premises, though Kent State Police said they have not received additional calls or reports since the initial Oct. 4 appearance.

As a student and employee of the university, and as an involved member of the Kent State community, I cannot stress enough how deeply concerning it is to have our fears minimized.

Nullified. Diminished. Students’ concerns and fears were reduced and written off as a “prank.”

Pranks are supposed to be funny — or at least, end in laughter. And I, for one, am not laughing.

I had hoped that the incident would spark further conversation about safety both on and off campus, particularly in residence halls, where the incidents were reported.

Currently, residence halls on campus utilize two-part card swipes or taps: one to enter the residence hall and another to either enter the stairwell or use the elevator. But for people to be able to enter residence halls undetected is deeply concerning and problematic — maybe it’s time to reassess the system the university has in place.

At the very least, I had hoped for more reassurance from my university and community that myself and my peers’ concerns were going to be validated — not written off.

In light of the incidents, I took measures to make myself feel safer. If my university and community won’t take measures to make me feel safe, I’ll have to do it myself.

I removed information from my door, particularly anything that might reveal my gender or identify me as an inhabitant. While I’ve actively carried pepper spray for years, I made the decision to invest in self-defense keychain items, including a personal alarm and two blunt, metal striking objects.

I’m now even more hyper-conscious of my choices when I’m alone. Even if it’s convenient to take the stairs, I’m wary of using stairwells and refuse to do so without the security of my self-defense items.

For years, I’ve called upon friends and loved ones while walking alone at night or when campus gets dark. I’ve had the experience of walking alone with someone walking directly behind me, matching my speed and pace.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt unsafe and uncomfortable before, but no one in my life has ever diminished my feelings of fear for my safety in the way the Kent State Police have done in light of this incident.

For my peers and friends: I see you, and I hear you. Your worries are not isolated, nor are you alone in having them.

Reducing the incitement of fear to a “Halloween prank” certainly sends a message — albeit, the wrong one. Let’s do better.

Emma Andrus is editor-in-chief. Contact her at [email protected].