In the wake of the recent attacks on Chelsea, N.Y., and Seaside Park, N.J., the nation feels a sense of bittersweet relief that the potential 42,000 combined members of those communities escaped those attacks without a single casualty. By comparison, Marist College is home to only a fraction of those totals, but the over 6,000 members of the community still live in a world where the news is littered with reports of mass school shootings and domestic terrorism.
In these times, security remains a key component of college life, particularly at Marist over the past 12 months. The school has had a handful of high-security incidents and events and is also going through a transitional period. As President David Yellen assumed office from the hands of Dr. Dennis Murray in early July, Security Director John Gildard also announced his retirement after 14 years in the role and over 25 years working with Marist. Dozens of qualified individuals convened as members of a national committee who interviewed over 120 candidates for the vacant job, eventually settling on John Blaisdell, the Associate Dean of Students at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. Blaisdell will assume the position in the middle of October, with Senior Assistant Director of Security Al Aldelrahman acting as director in the interim time.
Co-written by Adriana Belmonte, Derek Rose, Brennan Weiss and Kelsey Bradley
The Marist community was informed Friday morning through the Marist Alert system that an anonymous threat had been made on Twitter against the college. After Marist locked down campus and canceled classes, local Poughkeepsie police reported that a 16-year old boy from the City of Poughkeepsie had been arrested.
After the threat was deemed illegitimate, the lockdown was lifted early Friday afternoon, although classes remained canceled for the rest of the day. The campus grounds re-opened for other school-related functions.
On October 21st, students Matthew Struble and Jon Sterlacci found themselves surrounded and questioned by multiple Marist Security guards as they flew their DJI Phantom 3 drone high above the Rotunda. It was only a week later that Marist released a Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Policy to be enforced starting October 29th.
SORAerial captures a picturesque shot of the Marist rotunda
“Right as we went up, capturing a great shot of the Rotunda, a security guard came outside with a walkie-talkie. Within 90 seconds, two security guards were coming towards us from Donnelly, two more from Handcock, and eventually 7-8 guards were around us, ” Struble explained. Security asked them what they were using it for and if they had permission. “We explained it was for a project, and then continued to shoot all day.”
Struble finds their ambush and the timely release of the drone policy as no coincidence. Yet, Director of Safety and Security John Gildard assured that no specific incidents on campus led to the creation of the policy, adding that many colleges around the country have issued similar regulations in the past year. “There is nothing to be afraid of” Gildard stated, “We wanted to get out in front of it, before there was a problem.” Monica Couvillion, a Marist senior expressed a fear of drones. “They sound threatening, and the presence of them on campus makes me worry about my privacy.” Struble, a proud ‘drone-er’, insists that the word ‘drone’ itself gets an undeserving negative connotation. “People associate it with drone bombings and spying when most are not much more than a toy plane.”