Parents voice concern about recent gun violence

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

Following the Sunday shooting in the 400 block of West Walnut Street and the Tuesday shooting at Evolve apartments at SIU, the university received several calls from concerned parents about campus safety, university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said.

Earlier this week the Daily Egyptian asked readers on Facebook how they feel about safety on campus and in the community, and worried parents answered with threats of removing their children from the university. 

“As a parent I’m disturbed by this,” Geri Klinger of Algonquin wrote on Facebook. “I wish my son would transfer. But he loves SIU.”

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Another parent, Annie Gustafson of Oak Forest, wrote, “The city of Carbondale and the university better get this under control. As a parent of a current student this sickens me to read. You think enrollment is low now? Just wait….”

During an interview Wednesday, SIU alumnus Keith Bradley said he felt very safe in Carbondale when he was a student in 1989. There were some issues with violence, said Keith — a parent of a current SIU student — but nothing like he sees today.

Keith’s daughter, Margaret, makes four generations of Salukis.

The recent gun violence has Keith very anxious for his daughter’s safety and well-being.

“If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to excel,” Keith said.

He said, whether it is true or not, there is a perception SIU and Carbondale are not safe places to be.

“You’re going to have to change the perception if you want to retain students,” Keith said.

MORE: 3 days, 3 people shot in Carbondale | SEMO students identified as suspects in Easter Sunday shooting

Alumnus Ryan Moore, a previous university employee, said he feels less safe on campus and in Carbondale now than he did when he was a student.

However, the Makanda resident said his reaction to the shooting was business as usual.

“This has become the norm,” he said. “It did not surprise me in the least.”

Moore, who has three children, said he would be cautious sending his own children to SIU, and would not want them living on campus or at certain places off campus.

Crime is becoming more a focal point for people who are helping their son or daughter choose a school, he said.

Margaret Bradley said she will not be returning to SIU in the fall solely because she does not feel safe in Carbondale.

“It hurts because we love SIU,” Keith said.

Margaret, a sophomore from Equality studying paralegal, said she was excited coming to the university where three other generations of her family went. When she heard about the recent shootings, she was frightened and unnerved because she didn’t expect that much violence in a small community.

“Our safety data is on par with other campuses, and we have strong crime prevention and enforcement initiatives,” interim Chancellor Brad Colwell said in an email to students on Wednesday.

Colwell went on to name the “brightway” walking path, strict rules disallowing firearms on campus and night safety transit as examples of safety implementations.

“Unfortunately, shooting incidents like those that have occurred off campus are not isolated to Carbondale,” Colwell wrote. “Gun violence is a national issue and can occur in any community.”

MORE: How safe do you feel in Carbondale? Join the conversation here.

Colwell advised students to always be aware of their surroundings and stay with people they trust.

“Now that I’m here, I almost can’t leave quick enough,” Margaret said. “I won’t be attending SIU anymore, and I most likely will not send my children here.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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