It appears that the men’s room of Regina Hall, a freshman dormitory at St. Xavier University, is NOT a harbinger of doom – as some people had feared.
It was in one particular stall of the men’s rest room of the co-ed dorm that three different menacing messages were found – the last of which implied that some sort of carnage could be expected on campus on Monday.
OFFICIALS AT THE college in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood – noting the bloodshed that gave DeKalb, Ill., its own version of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre earlier this year – decided to play it safe. Students at the main campus, along with a secondary campus in suburban Orland Park and classroom space used in downtown Chicago, were all evacuated.
Four other schools in the area, including a Catholic high school located across the street from St. Xavier, all had classes cancelled on Monday.
Students at the schools are not sure just how (if at all) the time will be made up, or whether they will be expected to cram the same amount of studies into a shorter time period – commencement ceremonies at St. Xavier had been scheduled for May 17.
Now some people might think that bathroom graffiti is not a sufficient reason to shut down a college campus, even if in the final instance on Thursday, a scrawled note warned people to, “be prepared to die 4/14.”
I’D BE INCLINED to think it is just someone with a warped sense of humor, except that there are at least two other colleges in this country – Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and Malcolm X College on the West Side – where graffiti also implied threats of violence in conjunction with Monday’s date.
Law enforcement officials who are monitoring the incidents at all the campuses say they believe the significance of the date is that it comes exactly two months after Steven Kasmierczak, a former Northern Illinois University student, walked into an auditorium with firearms and began shooting – killing five students and wounding several others.
What exactly the connection would be, they can’t say. They really don’t know.
Is there someone out there who is angry about the way in which police and college officials handled the Northern Illinois incident, thereby provoking them to cause another violent incident at another college campus out of some sort of revenge?
IT WOULD NOT be the most ridiculous concept.
People unstable enough to wreck vengeance with violence often time their incidents to specific dates that carry significance in their minds – even if, to the rest of the world, the connection seems ridiculous.
Let’s not forget the April 19, 1993 incident near Waco, Texas, where federal agents trying to raid a religious compound where a stash of firearms was being held illegally wound up causing a fire that killed the people inside.
It was two years later to the date that Timothy McVeigh triggered an explosion that demolished the federal government building in Oklahoma City, and he saw his actions as payback to the federal government for killing “innocents.” He also noted the original fighting in the American Revolution began April 19, 1775, and saw his own conservative viewpoint as being the equivalent of the original revolutionaries.
IT COULD TURN out to be that the April 14 date has a completely different significance. I would guess that because it keeps turning up on bathroom stalls of so many college campuses. If it were just the two Chicago schools, then an NIU connection might be relevant.
But a Michigan college, where I would guess most of the student body had never heard of DeKalb, Ill., until two months ago?
These college closings have me wracking my brain for any historic incidents that may have taken place on April 14 – although nothing of significance comes to my mind.
I also wonder if perhaps it is the digits themselves (4 – 1 – 4) that have some significance. Perhaps they add up to a different date or statistic, or perhaps they should be read in a different order, in order to figure out their true meaning.
OR COULD IT be just that one person came up with the date, and other losers are copying it as some sort of a twisted gag – almost like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Does all this sound irrational? It is.
But then again, that’s the kind of mindset we’re dealing with in incidents like this. Someone has a convoluted logic that is meant to justify either committing an act of violence on a college campus, or just trying to terrify student bodies across the United States into thinking that something bad could happen.
And if any law enforcement personnel are reading this, let me emphasize that all this is a guess on my part. I don’t have any understanding of what 4/14 means, or why we ought to think that college kids will be safe on Tuesday even though they were at risk on Monday.
I HOPE THEY are safe. Personally, I think they will be as safe Tuesday, or any other day this week, as they would have been on Monday. Ultimately, the college campuses will just have to take a chance and re-open, although it was uncertain just when that would happen.
As of late Monday, St. Xavier campuses (which sit in a heavily residential neighborhood on the edge of Chicago and in one of the lowest of low-crime suburbs in the Chicago area) remain closed, although Malcolm X officials reopened their school for Monday night classes.
Students, however, are having to submit to searches by security before being allowed to enter school buildings.
This could wind up being the norm, at least for the rest of this year, as university officials around the country would rather not provide the next dateline to gain national infamy, even though on a certain level they realize there’s nothing they can do to guarantee beyond a doubt that an act of violence will not occur on their campuses.
STUDENTS ARE REALLY going to have to start justifying their existence, and the concept of a college campus as some sort of forum for public expression may just be a quaint remnant of the past.
Also a part of the past, it seems, is the day when we can think of bathroom graffiti as just the mindless rambling of people with too much free time on their minds while they are supposed to be doing their business.
No more do we get such “gems” as this graffiti ditty that I recall from one day while sitting on a stall during my own college days.
“JESUS SAVES,” READ the graffito, to which someone else had felt the need to add the line, “at Corn Belt Bank.”
The reaction then, as I recall, was for other people to add more lines of graffiti, turning the stall into a debate on whether speculation about where Jesus does his banking is disrespectful to the Lord, or whether some people take bathroom graffiti too seriously.
Now, we’d have ministers wanting to exorcise the bathroom stall and the FBI coming in to investigate whether the threat is legitimate, while also weeding their way through countless telephone numbers belonging to guys, only with girls’ names attached as a junior-high level joke.
EDITOR’S NOTES: These are the latest updates (http://update.sxu.edu/) provided by St. Xavier University about their closing and when they think they may re-open.
Students got an unexpected ‘spring break’ this week (http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2008/04/14/threat_prompts_closing_of_schools/2481/), due to an outbreak of graffiti.
My alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., increased its own security measures (http://chicagoargus.blogspot.com/2008/02/not-even-my-alma-mater-is-safe-these.html) in the days following the Northern Illinois University incident.