By: Erin Mellor & Kyle Atkins
Each year, as relegated by the Clery Act, the campus community receives a “Right to Know” pamphlet via inter campus mail. This brochure covers various types of crime and numerically states how many of each type of crime has taken place on campus. It covers rape, arson, theft, assault, et cetera. This semester, many students have been buzzing about the recent crimes on campus, which have reached an unprecedented number in my three years here.
On a campus with 600 students, word can travel shockingly fast, and we all know that some of the information has been mutated through the various channels, much like the telephone game we played when we were younger. A squabble between roommates can turn into an all out brawl, and talking to the boy who sits next to you in class can turn into a full fledged TFC Relationship. Recently, many rumors have traveled through the grapevine regarding the thefts that have taken place on campus. In an effort to dissolve some of the misconceptions surrounding these events, myself and Kyle Atkins met with Lee Yowell, who serves the college as Vice President for Student Development, and recently made an announcement in chapel regarding the priority of safety, both of person and property, on campus. Yowell stated “we have had a number of incidences that have caused us to be concerned.”
One comment on the Shadow blog (which has been taken down since my interview with him) that I found particularly grim was from a student who wished to thank the hacker, because now everyone could essentially do whatever they wanted on campus, and not face the consequences of their actions. In my (Erin) interview with Shadow, he said “I ceased hacking because I found out that it was bothering/offending/hurting/scaring people. Jokes aren’t supposed to hurt people. Christians aren’t supposed to hurt people. I was also told that what I was doing was potentially illegal, and that influenced my decision too, although I had not confirmed whether or not that was true when I made my apology.”
While some of the talk of hacking has died down in the past few weeks, the campus has not soon forgotten the “Shadow.” The Information and Technology department on campus has been conducting their own investigation into the way that several Facebook accounts were hacked. With both Shadow and the latest thefts, the TFC namesake has been hijacked. Both the hacker and person(s) who have carried out the thefts have claimed to be doing the campus a service, calling themselves “TFC Shadow,” and “TFC Crime Stoppers.” The supposed crime stoppers left a note with a group of laptops discovered by a student in Williams Chapel stating that it was an April Fool’s joke, and students should learn to lock their doors. Obviously, these incidences are considered crimes, and are in no way advocated by the administration. “We don’t find it funny, we don’t take it as a joke,” Yowell stated.
Yowell assures students that the administration takes these crimes very seriously, having a very good standing relationship with the sheriff’s office in town. He cannot, however, give any details of an investigation, in respect toward both the victims, and the perpetrator(s) of the thefts. He simply said “when we find them, they will be dealt with.” Interim Director of Security Matthew Miller stated “There is an official investigation still ongoing and I am working with the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office and other school administrators to resolve this issue.” Victims of the thefts declined to comment, however; we do know that laptops have been stolen from both Forrest and LeTourneau. We can confirm that those that were recovered with the note from the “TFC Crime Stoppers” were the ones from the women’s dorm.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone on campus talk about how much they dislike the Toccoa Falls College “bubble,” I would be able to pay off all my college loans. Our school is known for its trusting students, who can be naive to the world outside of the campus. Some see this as a gift, while others view it as a curse. In years past, I have seen the relative absence of hardship as a gift, but as a third year student, my perspective is beginning to shift. Many students have had their bubble burst in the past weeks, as they have been the victims of thefts. We have become acutely aware of the fallen state of the students who committed these crimes, as what we thought were issues faced only in the outside world have permeated into our campus.
While the persons who are committing the crimes should not be hung as many would like to do, this is a matter that we as students should take seriously. This goes beyond the crimes themselves, but to the impact these incidences have had upon our student community. When I (Kyle) walk through the dorms, I want to know that my fellow dorm-mates will be watching my back and I will be watching theirs as well. This doesn’t mean taking matters into our own hands and becoming vigilantes, but rather encouraging a lifestyle that is focus on holy living. Yes, we have to know that not everyone will follow this encouragement, but we should keep each other accountable, call others to account (according to Matthew 18) when we believe wrongdoing to be happening. Our community has been impacted by the events recently and instead of spreading rumors, we need to not only take steps to protect ourselves but understand how any decisions that we make affect our community. Secrets kill the heart, and they kill the community we have worked to build on campus. Let us work together to foster community based on holy living, not fearful apprehension. As Yowell put it, “we are a community, so the actions of a few affect the rest of us.”
There are ways that we as students can prevent these crimes from continuing. In terms of internet usage, make sure that you have an updated browser that uses “htpps,” which maintains security. As for thefts, much of what comes into play here is common sense. Keeping doors locked, not having large sums of money on your person or in an unlocked vehicle. Making sure that coded doors are kept shut, rather than propped open for easier access. If you’re going out at night, especially ladies, take a friend with you. One female student tweeted “every girl should know the extension for TFC security.” (Its #5444, in case you didn’t know.) Also, reporting any suspicious activity is imperative in the effort to keep these crimes in check. If you see something, do not hesitate to notify your resident assistant or director. You may also contact security or student development. Together, we can ensure that the crime on our campus is minimal and addressed in the most effective ways possible.
More information to come, for sure.
[Edit: Since the publication of this story, more laptops were stolen from the Teacher Education building.]