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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: We deserve to be kept informed, we deserve dignity

UNC students evacuated campus through Fraternity Court on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, after the University lifted the shelter-in-place warning following the active assailant event on campus.

On Monday at 1:03 p.m., warning sirens went off and an Alert Carolina message went out alerting the campus community of an “Armed and Dangerous Person On or Near Campus."

UNC Police advised students and faculty to shelter in place and wait for the all-clear, which came from a different Alert Carolina message at 4:14 p.m.

Perhaps UNC and Chapel Hill Police were inadequately prepared for a crisis like this, resulting in further chaos and stress for students. In a world threatened by gun violence daily, students deserve more support. We deserve to be kept informed, we deserve dignity and we deserve to feel safe and protected. 

A lack of information

Over a span of three hours, students received a total of four Alert Carolina messages. This was just one indication of how poorly informed students were at the time of the crisis. 

Rumors floated around about what the shooter was doing and where he was; we heard that he was dressed as a police officer and knocking on classrooms, trying to gain entrance. We heard that he was holding hostages in Caudill labs. We heard that he had a driver who was moving him between North and South Campus. 

Students could not answer frantic loved ones' "are you okay" texts accurately. They could not even provide them with information,  because there was none. We could not even ensure for ourselves that we were going to be okay, because we were sitting in darkened basements, classrooms and dorm rooms, filling the void of facts with word-of-mouth updates from students, faculty and conflicting news reports. We were kept in the dark. 

The ambiguity and lack of updates about who the suspect was also contributed to the misinformation. Images of one individual being taken into police custody were shared. People thought it was over at this point, and began to update loved ones. Shortly after that, claims that UNC Police arrested the wrong man began to spread, and we knew nothing all over again.  

Poor safety directions

There wasn’t just uncertainty about what was happening, but also confusion about how to respond. Students received mixed messages as they were evacuated from campus buildings. Being told to go to North Campus, South Campus, Franklin Street. There was no clear safe space, and in students' minds, the shooter could have been anywhere. Where do you go when it feels like the whole campus is unsafe? 

While people were able to seek shelter in businesses on Franklin Street, like Sutton’s Drug Store and Epilogue, we cannot only have the community and each other for protection. At a bare minimum, our law enforcement and safety resources need to offer more clarity and safety. 

Insensitive responses from teachers and reporters

Before the official notification from the University announcing that all classes would be canceled, some teachers continued instruction. Some continued in the classroom, and some sent out Zoom links for students to join.

While some professors and instructors took the empathetic initiative to call off class, it is unreasonable to ask students to go to class during a life-threatening situation. It is frankly a disturbing reflection of how our faculty did not know how to adequately support students in the worst of times, even when they were the only support system in the room. 

This insensitivity didn’t just stop at faculty — news organizations interviewed students during the emergency. Withholding students’ time and space to process the tragic crisis while it occurred felt exploitative, insensitive and, frankly, like poor journalism. Reporters were also asking students to disclose their location, which was not only disrespectful but also jeopardized their safety. 

UNC did not cancel all classes and events for the remainder of the day until 3:14 p.m., according to an Alert Carolina message. The University needed to take into account students' reactions to this horrific and terrifying event and prioritize our wellbeing. 

Thoughts and prayers will not be enough. They need to cancel classes for the remainder of the week and provide resources to support wellness. We can not be expected to focus on assignments in the wake of an event as terrible as this. 

@delcrawl @le_hahahaha

@dthopinion |

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Le Ha

Le Ha is the 2023-24 opinion editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an editorial board member. Le is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and information science, with a business minor.