Shame, shame, shame on the Bellingham Herald, for their sensationalist tabloid reporting in today’s paper.
One has to wonder who at Western Washington University (full disclosure: my employer) pissed off who at the Herald, because two substantial hit pieces were published today — At WWU, few safety changes made a year after freshman’s death; WWU defends police chief’s vacation during search for Clark. And, even if someone was pissed, how incredibly irresponsible and unprofessional to vengefully publish two sleazy articles that try to expose problems that don’t even exist?! (More on that in a moment.)
As I mentioned last week, this is the biggest weekend of the year at Western, when 4,100 students move into their on-campus housing ahead of Wednesday’s first day of classes, with many thousands more students moving into off-campus housing. These students have an ENORMOUS amount of stuff they are dealing with: many are moving away from home for the first time, or moving out of the supportive on-campus housing communities for the first time, their tuition and fees have been steadily going up, there are fewer student jobs available on campus and off, they’re worried about getting the classes they need, about moving into their rooms, meeting their roommates in person for the first time, saying goodbye to their parents, buying books, getting their student ID cards, learning their way around campus, getting used to dining hall food, etc.
The LAST thing they and their parents need is a reminder of a terrible tragedy that befell a Western student shortly after move-in last year, a tragedy that hit me and the whole campus pretty hard, one that I wrote several posts about — The Value of a Life, The Terror of Being a Parent, Happiness is a Verb.
How can the Herald be so heartless? A lot of folks are still healing from that experience!
As I said above, the articles are blatant attempts to claim controversy where there isn’t any, offering absolutely no substantiation for assertions that Western hasn’t done enough to improve safety by educating students about the perils of drug and alcohol use, or that the University Police Chief was in any way negligent for having gone on vacation once the investigation of Dwight Clark’s disappearance was taken over by the Bellingham Police Department. The disappearance happened after Dwight left a house party held off campus, and all indications suggest that he headed to the waterfront from there, rather than returning to campus first.
Western can’t be expected to be responsible for safety issues off campus, nor the poor choices students often make off campus.
Speaking from the experience of ten years working at Western, the campus Counseling, Health & Wellness department works in concert with other departments all over campus, through a variety and frequently refreshed programs, to promote healthy lifestyles and safe choices, and, really, that’s about all they can do.