Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Dry humor

A suicidal online threat from an anonymous gunman who vows to kill 100 people is no laughing matter. Even when the threat is nothing more than a ‘joke’ from a student testing how his university would respond, the danger posed by such remarks is not diminished. Faced with just such a bluff, Colgate University did the right thing last month in taking action against the perpetrator. Regardless of where, how or why a student threatens violence, universities should take the matter seriously.
Even though the student claimed his post written on JuicyCampus.com was a joke, it was as much of a threat as a written death note or a student delivering a package she claims is a bomb. Colgate University did well to investigate the matter, warn students of a possible security threat and track down the source of the online post.
By posting the musing as to whether his school would shut down to avoid a potential massacre, the student in question did more than entertain his curiosity or prove a point – the question taunted the university. No school should take the chance of leaving that question unanswered.
The First Amendment claim of ‘Freedom of Speech’ that defenders of such anonymous instigators so often hide behind does not work here. Any form of speech, spoken or written in another context, would have been taken the same way. A threat upon another person cannot be taken simply for freedom of speech.
The student wanted to prove that JuicyCampus.com is filled with negative comments and snide remarks ‘-‘- a fact that already seems obvious. Even if the student meant no harm, he should have thought about the consequences of his actions, and perhaps a less harmful way to make his point.
It is easy to trace back an IP address to pinpoint the location of a specific computer. Maybe the student thought he could post an anonymous joke and receive several responses ‘-‘- some in agreement, others calling him out ‘-‘- and no one would be the wiser that it was him. Colgate was able to track down the source and show its students that any threat against the school, regardless of how ‘serious’ it may seem to be, will be taken seriously.
University police cannot possibly spend time monitoring every blog or website similar to JuicyCampus.com for threats against the campus, nor should they. However, it is good that when given the information, Colgate police acted quickly and took the tip seriously. Students need to be aware as well, in order to keep their entire university safe.

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