[CW: This article mentions gun violence and fatalities as a result of gun violence.]
The last few days have rocked the Vassar community with the news of a shooting this past Sunday, Oct. 2, in the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott in Poughkeepsie. The incident sadly claimed the life of a Marist College student’s father during Vassar’s and Marist’s families weekends. Officers later found bomb-making material in the room and arrested the two men in connection with the killing, according to The New York Times.
Director of Campus Safety Arlene Sabo quickly informed students via email about the incident. “I am writing to inform you of media reports regarding a fatal shooting at a local hotel often utilized by families when visiting area colleges. Police responded to a report of shots fired at a hotel in Poughkeepsie around 7:30 a.m. today. It does not appear that anyone related to any Vassar student was injured in the incident, and Town of Poughkeepsie Police have said there is currently no active threat to the public.”
In her weekly Sunday evening email, President Elizabeth Bradley also provided assurance, condolences and resources for students. “It is with a heavy heart that I reflect on the violence in Poughkeepsie today,” she said. “I have written to the president of Marist and offered any support our campus can give. It is a devastating tragedy, and our hearts go out to all people affected. The Town of Poughkeepsie police have assured the public that there is no ongoing threat to safety. If you need to talk, please reach out to Counseling or others including me. It is an upsetting time.”
In a written correspondence, Sabo stated, “The College and the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department have long worked together to help ensure the safety of the Vassar community and the department is committed to keeping us informed of any on-going threat to our campus. We have formal and informal channels that the Town would utilize if such a threat were to exist.”
The news reinvigorated conversation over Safety and Security’s false report of an active shooter on campus over the summer. The Miscellany News asked Sabo about what steps were taken to prevent more false alarms and ensure accuracy in the reporting of threats to campus safety. “Minutes later [after the false report] a second message was sent alerting the campus of the error,” she said, later adding, “Testing the system daily is part of the Campus Response Center duties and the incorrect alert was accidentally chosen and accidentally sent out.”
Regarding Sunday’s incident, she added: “The report was called in by witnesses and the police were dispatched to the location to confirm/respond. If such an event were to occur on our campus, we too would reach out to the police to respond and provide appropriate follow up action/investigation. Campus Safety would send out an emergency communication and work with campus partners to provide continuing notifications/directions as appropriate.” She continued: “Our immediate goals in such an incident would be to direct emergency responders to the incident location, keep people out of danger and away from the scene, and contribute to investigative efforts as necessary.”
Sufana Noorwez ’25 [Disclaimer: Noorwez is Opinions Editor for The Miscellany News], who was on campus for this summer’s false alarm, shared her thoughts on that incident as well as Sunday’s. “It was definitely disquieting to wake up to a notification about an active shooter on campus,” she said, adding, “[B]ut I’m glad that we got quick follow-up once the College realized their error.”
Noorwez expressed consternation that the most recent alert was relayed so long after the incident occured. “It’s always good to know what protocols the College has in place if an event like that does happen, but I wonder how far off campus an event needs to happen in order for us to be alerted immediately about it.”
She went on: “Receiving the email hours after the incident happened, and hours after people started talking about it on social media definitely felt like a little bit too late, especially considering how close to campus this happened, and the fact that many Vassar parents were staying at the hotel for Families Weekend.”
These incidents have occured in the wider context of elevated violent crime rates and gun violence nationwide. Asked about the broader implications of the shootings, Sabo responded, “This incident is an unfortunate reminder of the prevalence of gun violence and that we are not immune from experiencing these incidents, just as the rest of the nation.”
Alisha Gupta ’23 recalled how she felt the moment she first heard of the shooting: “I first heard about it through the email Vassar sent, and it freaked me out because it’s always been my biggest fear coming to America, but at least before I could say that it was far away…I was also annoyed they didn’t say the name of the hotel ‘cause I feel like we deserve to know, and I found out it was where my brother stayed when he visited me, and I pretty much shut down for the rest of the night.”
When asked what protocols might make her feel safer, Gupta replied, “I guess I personally don’t even know what our drill is as a school, so that would be a start. I have no idea how this can be controlled though, and it’s not really Vassar’s fault, as it’s more the laws in place…we just need to try to survive.”
Additional reporting by Nina Ajemian.