On 12/4/10 we reported on an incident in which a Ross student’s life was threatened by someone who stole her cell phone and had apparently been watching her and her husband for a while. Shortly thereafter a Ross professor contacted us to express gratitude for working to make the community safer, but also to show concern that our wording might have offended Kittitian locals and/or increased tension between students and locals. The professor also requested that we meet with Mr. Nolan (head of security at Ross) and Dr. St. Jean (the university dean).
Below you’ll find our response to the professor. Please share your thoughts on the situation (we suggest reading the previous post if you are not yet aware of the incident), and don’t hesitate to contact us at eyeonstkitts[at]gmail[dot]com if you have any information on a crime incident on St. Kitts.
I amended the post from 12/4/10, since it was not my intent to imply something about the financial situation of all citizens of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Here’s what I added: “The preceding statement was made in regard to crime, not the economic status of Kittitian locals. Poverty is the cause of most crime, no matter where in the world it happens.” As you said, locals are also dealing with the crime problem. It does not seem that the local police force is adequately equipped to protect the entire island. Even the fact that the police stations do not have a communal digital records system will make it extremely difficult to find perpetrators in cases like this, or to track when individuals commit multiple crimes.
I definitely wasn’t trying to make a statement about the hospitality of locals. However, you also pointed out the tension between locals and students. I think that many students feel this tension regardless of whether or not a crime incident has happened. My main concern is that students don’t have enough information to stay safe. The current incident report system would be completely unacceptable for any university in the world. At the very least, there should be an email sent to all students immediately in the case of a crime. Those reports should really be sent to the media as well, or at least made public (not password protected) on the Ross website. To act like these crimes are not happening puts the students in the position of greatest risk.
On top of that, incoming students and their loved ones are not properly informed as to the potentially dangerous nature of life on the island, or provided with safe housing at a reasonable cost. Students moving here have no idea how bad the crime rate actually is, and they don’t feel that the school, security guards, or the police force have any major concern for their well being. There’s a general sense that crimes committed against students must be kept quiet, always because “it’s political.” And student’s aren’t willing to stand up to administration, fearing that they’ll endanger their position in the program.
But there is also no sense on the island that someone will be punished for targeting students. Students are considered fair game, since the mentality is that “they shouldn’t be on the island anyways,” and many locals see the university as a huge source of money that doesn’t get distributed evenly across the island. Naturally professors would be required to stand on the university’s side of the matter, because to do otherwise would be to jeopardize their source of income. The result is that students are in a corner with no way out.
At the present time I will have to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of this situation. I sent an email to Mr. Nolan when a student’s dog was attacked with a machete a few months ago, and I received no response from him.