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University should alert community on case-by-case basis

On Oct. 27, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the arrest of eight suspected child predators, among them Carnegie Mellon graduate student Adham Mandour, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology. Mandour is charged with child pornography possession and distribution, and was arrested on Carnegie Mellon’s main campus, according to the attorney general’s office press release.

When relaying information about crimes or other situations that could potentially harm campus members, the university typically either issues information through official communications or crime alerts.

According to Ken Walters, the university’s executive director of media relations, the Dean of Student Affairs “may take summary action or implement interim measures that limit a student’s ability to be present on campus ... and/or interact with specific members of the university until a resolution is reached” for incidents that pose immediate concerns for the well-being of campus members. For incidents in which the university deems criminal activity to be a “serious or continuing threat to the university community,” the university issues crime alerts.

When determining whether or not to announce the arrest to the larger campus community, the university followed its standard protocol, as outlined by Walters. However, as the university assesses future cases of a similar scale and nature, The Tartan hopes that the university will consider making exceptions on a case-by-case basis to its crime communications protocols regarding high profile cases like Mandour’s, especially as Carnegie Mellon attempts to establish itself as a campus with appropriate transparency amidst the sexual assault investigation that the Office for Civil Rights is conducting.

Through a conversation with Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno, as well as conversations amongst The Tartan’s editorial board, The Tartan agreed that the case did not pose immediate concerns for the safety or welfare of students and did not pose a serious or continuing threat to individuals.

This conclusion is based on the information that the student was immediately detained from campus and, therefore, the situation did not necessitate a communication based upon standard protocol.

However, information about the arrest was shared on local news station WPXI. To some, the university’s choice not to inform the campus community about the arrest in light of WPXI’s story may seem as if the university wished to withhold information from its students and faculty. In high-profile cases that capture the attention of local media, The Tartan hopes that the university will respond with an official communication or alternative channel to inform campus members of the incident so that the university is not perceived in this light.

In this instance of Mandour’s case, The Tartan hoped for the university to issue an official communication explaining the incident in appropriate detail.

Furthermore, the university should have explained that, since the incident had not been assessed to be an immediate threat to campus members, it therefore followed its standard protocol in its decision not to issue an initial alert. The Tartan hopes that communications which deviate from the standard protocol will be provided if a case like Mandhour’s occurs again.

The university prides itself on being communicative with the larger campus community, and while the university’s intentions when not sending out a crime alert for this case were not to block the campus community from knowledge of the case, the lack of a communication could be perceived that way when the case is relayed to campus members through other sources, like WPXI and The Tartan itself. In this and many other ways, Carnegie Mellon should strive to be an open campus.