Friday morning, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., Christopher Swanson committed suicide by gunshot on campus. It’s a tragic incident. I know. But what’s also tragic is the fact that the body of Mr. Swanson wasn’t found until around 7am by a maintenance worker. What’s tragic is that Mr. Swanson was allowed to carry a gun on campus in the first place. Mercyhurst students have always been proud of the impressive gates that surround us. They are old, beautiful and have a unique history.
They symbolically represent how open Mercyhurst is to the outside community. We shouldn’t ignore people in the Erie community or the global one. But news flash, as long as the gates stay open, they pose a threat to every person on this campus. The sisters of Mercy are known as the “walking nuns.”They were one of the first religious orders to remain out in the open, rather than in convents. Mercyhurst has a reputation to uphold in their honor, but Mercyhurst also has a duty to its students.
In modern times, school shootings are not uncommon. In these times, many schools are taking the appropriate steps to securing the safety of all on campus.
Shouldn’t Mercyhurst be doing the same? Why don’t we have a security posting in front of the gates? Where are the cameras? Why do only some places on campus have those blue lights?
Reportedly, a staff member who was not a member of police and safety found Mr. Swanson’s body. During this time of between 3 to 5 hours, where his body lay open on campus, where were the patrolmen? Mercyhurst is the only school in Erie County whose security personnel do not wear guns. So the question stands… how would Police and Safety have responded had Swanson been an immediate threat? If he had become homicidal? Were patrolmen even circling the campus? If so, our patrol, be it officers or routes needs to be totally changed. Do we have enough patrolmen to cover the school effectively? Is there enough money in the budget to hire more? Are we safe on campus? I am not convinced. In the coming weeks, I along with the whole of Mercyhurst will be looking to President Gamble for action. This has certainly shaken my faith in the University.
Mr. Swanson was an armed and dangerous individual, who ultimately harmed not only himself, but Mercyhurst, too. Psychologically, many have lost confidence in the university’s ability to protect the people on campus. However, the officers of police and safety have succeeded in keeping students safe so far. They continue to serve the student body with cheer, and professionalism. Many thanks to these officers and the investigators who work hard to piece together what happened. Many prayers are offered to Mr. Swanson’s family and on behalf of those involved.