Somerville Police, university must be more transparent in light of DTD stabbing case

Last week, the Daily published a special report on the ongoing investigations into the stabbing incident that took place at Tufts fraternity Delta Tau Delta (DTD) over the summer. On the morning of the attack, a blast e-mail was sent out by the Tufts Emergency Alert System telling the community to shelter in place. Since then, a few more details have come to light, including a brief account of the stabbing and the fact that no arrests have been made concerning the case. In the absence of official follow-up notifications, the community has instead relied on other means for learning about updates, making it difficult to discern between fact and rumor. Given that the Somerville Police Department — not the Tufts University Police Department — is leading the investigation, it’s reasonable to assume that university officials may know very little about the case. However, some indication that the university is in dialogue with the Somerville Police and that some attempts at progress are being made by all parties would go a long way toward reassuring the Tufts community.

Though the university’s handling of the emergency in the initial weeks after the incident is praiseworthy, the growing distance between what the Somerville Police know, what the university may know and what the community knows cannot bode well for any issue that challenges our community, let alone campus safety. Certainly the administration and the police have their reasons for carrying out investigative responsibilities quietly. Giving too many details about the emergency during the night of the stabbing could have incited not only panic, but also more violence. Concern for the privacy and reputations of the people involved in the investigation are other legitimate reasons to keep some details about the case under wraps. However, to share information about the investigation does not necessitate sharing personal information about the individuals involved. The Somerville Police Department’s and the university’s decisions to stay practically silent about the incident during the last five months of investigation is an irresponsible one that does everyone a disservice.

It’s understandable that the university might not want to make public note of negative circumstances more often than necessary due to the importance of having a good reputation among academic institutions. Students are neither naive nor apathetic about the significance of good PR — the value of their degrees depends, in part, upon the university’s good standing in the media. None of these reasons, however, justify the university’s lack of communication about the case in recent months. Something really frightening happened on campus, and students deserve to know more about it.