In recent weeks, the University has had the misfortune of experiencing two incidences of startling student violence. While it is clear that these incidences are largely coincidental, and do not reflect the student body or the University as a whole, important questions have been raised in their wake.
The discovery that Sean Saxena, one of the students accosted in the attack that took place in the Sylvan residential area this past week, had to lie bleeding for 10 minutes before the police and paramedics could arrive is startling. The fact that the situation would’ve been similar in any number of residence halls on campus, however, is downright disturbing.
Nellie Stevens, the certified rescuer who attended to the bleeding Saxena, could not aid him to the best of her ability because the cluster office had no first aid kit or rubber gloves. One could hardly blame the cluster office attendants who could not help Saxena; none of them were trained in administering first aid, and in fact they are directed by the University to do little besides call the police or Health Services and wait for assistance.
This, presumably, is to avoid legal liability on the part of the University or the individual member of the residence life staff. But Massachusetts’ “Good Samaritan” law absolves any responder who “in good faith, provides or obtains, or attempts to provide or obtain assistance for the victim of a crime” from legal liability. And while the Residence Life staff – who are not trained first responders – should not be penalized for not taking immediate action in the event of an emergency, the resources should be available to them.
It is not the obligation of anyone witnessing the sort of violence that occurred in Sylvan to act as Stevens did. But in the event that victims are fortunate enough to have someone such as Stevens who is trained to provide emergency care, there is no conceivably legal reason that the University should not provide them with the means with which to do so.
Other than the perpetrator of this heinous act of violence, there are no individuals to blame for the mismanagement of the situation. But there is an issue of policy – which is probably more so the result of oversight than legal incompetence – that needs to be addressed.
The Residence Life staff and cluster offices exist to do more than distribute condoms, write up violators of the alcohol policy and put on events. They exist to ensure the general welfare of their residents. And in the event that one of their residents is attacked, suffers an accident or suddenly falls ill, they should be provided with the appropriate resources to handle it.
The events of the past few weeks are not paramount of daily life here at the University. But when heinous attacks or terrible accidents happen, there is no excuse for policy that inhibits action, making what Stevens described as “a bad situation worse.”
Unsigned editorials reflect the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board.