Safety and Security Tips for Thanksgiving Break 1996 ( Almanac November 12) included the following statement: "Report any suspicious person or activity as soon as you can: where, what, who, when and how." The staff and Advisory Board of the AfricanAmerican Resource Center (AARC), find the phrase "suspicious person" to be a particularly subjective and potentially dangerous one.
There are some individuals in the Penn community who would define that phrase as AfricanAmerican male. One person's "suspicious person" could easily be an Afri-canAmerican faculty member, faculty/staff member's husband/son or a West Philadelphia resident with a legitimate reason for being on campus. The phrase might also be attributed to an AfricanAmerican female with an ethnic hairstyle. Consequently, this puts the AfricanAmerican population (particularly males) on and around Penn's campus in jeopardy.
The AARC Advisory Board, comprised of administrators, faculty, staff and students, has asked Tom Seamon and Maureen Rush to reconsider the use of this phrase in both written and oral communication. In our view, it is much more appropriate to use the phrase "suspicious activity or behavior" which can be clearly defined.
We are happy to report that our suggestion was well received and quickly acted upon (Note: the web version of the safety tips printed in the November 12, 1996 Almanac now reflects this change). According to Maureen Rush, future "crime alerts" and safety tip outreach materials will be revised to read, "report suspicious behavior." She further stated that "Our mission is to protect all members of the Penn and West Philadelphia community that traverse within our patrol jurisdiction." The AARC staff and Advisory Board couldn't agree more.
-- The AARC Advisory Board
Ray Fonseca, Chair
Volume 43 Number 15
December 10, 1996
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