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Letter from the President: Huddleston calls for "active engagement"

UNH President

Published: Friday, November 6, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

Dear members of the UNH community,

I'm sure I was not alone in my feelings of sadness and, yes, anger, upon hearing Sunday morning that another one of our students had been assaulted on campus.  This young man was repeatedly kicked and punched by assailants in a well-traveled area near Stoke Hall on Halloween night. 

The University Police Department, in concert with other law enforcement agencies, is working to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of this violent assault. The UNH Police are also redoubling their efforts to patrol the campus and keep us safe.  That said, it concerns me greatly that civil interactions in our community have slipped to this degree. This is the third assault on campus this semester.  I hope you will join me in working for an end to this kind of behavior and a return to norms of respect and civility in our campus community.  

Yes, our community. We are a community. That means we are supposed to look out for and take care of one another. That didn't happen Saturday night. Indeed, aside from the terrible injuries our student suffered, what disturbed me most was the fact that many people observed the assault and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. That is not how a healthy community behaves.  While I certainly don't want anyone to put themselves in harm's way to break up a fight, choosing to walk past, to stop and observe, or just to ignore an altercation is unacceptable. It takes only a moment to call the police. Such a call can even be made anonymously.  Remember: This 21-year-old student is not simply a statistic or a name on a police report.  He is someone's son, roommate and friend. What if he was yours?  What if you were he?

Building and maintaining a community is not a spectator sport. It requires the active engagement of all members. UNH has been at the forefront nationally around efforts to help our students be more empowered and involved in ending domestic and sexual violence and stalking on campus. In its second year, our Bringing in the Bystander program aims to establish a community of responsibility and emphasizes that everyone has a role to play. We need to expand that to a shared responsibility for all our students.  

Every class of students that enters the University of New Hampshire agrees to follow a set of standards in­tended to advance our educational mission, as well as to promote each student's academic achievement and personal development. We agree, in short, to act as members of a community.  If you were one of the many people who witnessed, participated in, or otherwise have any information about this assault, you can still do the right thing. Call the University Police Department at (603) 862-1427 and share what you know. You owe it to yourself and to your fellow Wildcats.

Best regards,

Mark W. Huddleston

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UNH Mom and alumni
Mon Nov 9 2009 18:09
An assailant dressed as a banana and nobody steps forward with information? I find it hard to believe that there is no one on that campus who wasn't at a party with a banana?
I asked my son who is a senior at UNH if he would have stopped and he was adamant about saying yes. His comment about the event was that it was near a Freshman/Sophomore dorm and maybe those students would be less likely to step forward.
Disgusting that no one bothered to video and call 911. If there is a person out there with a video, I pray that they put themselves in the victim's shoes and figure out what you would want others to do if you were being beaten up. By remaining quiet, you are saying that beating up someone is okay. It's not!!
Cesar J. Rebellon, Assoc. Prof., Sociology
Sun Nov 8 2009 22:48
Well said, President Huddleston.
Sun Nov 8 2009 17:29
Consuela: The fact is that there was someone that took a video of the incident that is choosing not to come forward because she doesn't want to get in trouble. It was all over the WMUR website with the article comments on the incident. It sucks that people have to be cowards when the man who got assaulted is my good friend. It sucks a lot.
Sun Nov 8 2009 14:22
I'm appalled at the fact that there are only 6 comments here; there should be 6000. The campus community, students and faculty, should be commenting on this and speaking to the outrage of these attacks this semester. As the parent of a freshman, I fear that my son could be the target of a random act of stupidity and disrespect for a fellow student. I cringe when the weekends draw near and hope that the weekend slips by without such an incident. I am constantly conveying the concern to my son and sharing the sentiment that he should be watching out and caring for others in his UNH community but I hope it goes without detriment to his own well-being. I do believe that alcohol is the biggest problem and that kids have no boundaries or limits; their conscious has been numbed by it all. Do parents keep the dialogue open once their kids go to college? Do they think it's lame to keep the discussions open regarding social acceptability and respect for others. Shame on anyone who thinks this is so. I will continue to keep my conversations going with my son and hope that this will be evident when he parents a college student someday. In the meantime, I pray that UNH students, faculty and administration adopt new interventions to deal with this wave of attacks and senseless behavior; let it not become the culture and the norm.
j g
Sat Nov 7 2009 11:16
An important aspect to discuss...a Hartwick student tried to stop a fight in the spring of this year...the outcome? He was sucker-punched for his efforts, came within an inch of his life...thankfully he survived, but he is recovering to this day and will never fully be the same. He was in a coma for a period of time and his surgeon told his parents his pulling through was a miracle. All this student did was try to calm down a situation....with that begs the question what does the administration specifically advise a student who happens upon a violent situation TO DO...and equally important what NOT DO? Situations do vary given...time of day/night...location of incident ect...the discussion needs to be more specific in my opinion...intervening in the wrong way can be devastating!
Fri Nov 6 2009 18:17
Consuela58, keep in mind that this occurred on Halloween night, and that one of the assailants was dressed as a banana. I agree with the sentiments that I have heard from many of my fellow students - if I had seen a guy getting beaten up by a banana on Halloween night, I probably would have thought it was a joke and continued walking. Sad, but unfortunately true.

That being said, I would like to point out this incident as the reason why we need more police presence on campus at night. Students, you can't complain about there being "too many f***ing cops" around while you're trying to get (illegally) drunk, and then turn around and criticize the campus police for not being there when something like this happens. The UNH police do their jobs admirably, so rather than shouting insults at them from across the street or whining about how unfair it is that you got busted for drinking underage (which, I hate to tell you, is not unfair at all), let's step up and help them out. The police are here to protect us from events such as this, but because they were too busy dealing with the stupidity of underage drinkers and attending to the people being taken out of bars on stretchers, they couldn't be there to help prevent this assault. If each individual person on this campus assumes the responsibility for their own actions, then the police will be able to turn their attention to other, more serious matters such as this.

Elizabeth Chasse
Fri Nov 6 2009 17:34
President Huddleston: UNH needs to seriously consider adopting a "Good Samaritan Rule" as have many other schools around the country. Witnesses to wrong-doing should not be concerned that they themselves will be charged with unlawful internal possession or some other minor violation if they stand up, report, or give statements as witnesses. I feel strongly that many of those who witnessed the assault on Halloween night were themselves intoxicated and under 21. While it certainly is not an acceptable justification for their inaction; fearing being charged themselves could have impeded their willingness to "Do the Right Thing".
Lori Hopkins, Assoc. Professor, LLC
Fri Nov 6 2009 11:11
I would like to thank President Huddleston for his inspiring words, and I echo his call for active engagement in our UNH community. Violence against others, in word or action, is not acceptable and it affects us all. All of us in the UNH community need to do the right thing and speak up and speak out against violence, intolerance and hate.
Rich Messeder/Physics Senior
Fri Nov 6 2009 09:30
I wholly agree with the sentiments here. I had thought that Columbine High School massacre (1999) would be a wake up call for America, but a decade later we still sleep. If President Huddleston wants to see a culture change on campus, he will need to take greater steps than this missive. A culture change instigated by Huddleston would be a top down change. Are staff and faculty members fully involved in community life? I do not think so. Does the UNH/Durham campus stand in the minds of everyone as a campus where the highest ideals of humanity are reflected in daily life?

It is difficult to effect changes in a culture. As in the story of the Little Red Hen, most of us are too willing to reap the benefits of society, but not so willing to exert the effort to shape it. President Huddleston does not live in the day-to-day world of students. He and his associates are not likely to be victims of the same sort of cruelty that poses a daily threat to students. Most of us, as we grow older, will move into a society where we are less likely to experience the risks of younger students on campus. But the question still remains. Do we stand for dignity, nobility of character, defense of the weak, compassion for one another? Our daily lives are busy with studies, technology issues, being popular, growing up - yet I opine that virtues, those aspects of who we are that define our character, are of greater importance. Not everything in the "good old days" was all that good (See Kent State shootings, 1970), but many aspects of our society worth saving have fallen by the wayside. There is student-to-student cruelty on campus of many forms, but most of it goes unremarked for the same reason that no one came to the aid of the student being assaulted.

I mentioned earlier that Huddleston could effect a top down change on campus, albeit not overnight, but I also say that students can begin immediately to change the atmosphere at UNH to a more noble one, also not overnight. I daresay that we would all feel so much better about campus life. Now - who will help the Little Red Hen?

Fri Nov 6 2009 08:54
In the age of cellphones and texting and taking photos??? No one could take a "photo" and send to the police?? Really? I don't buy that!!! Everyone photos everyone else and not this? I can't believe there is not one photo if folks were walking by and shame on them. It is like that girl that got raped and everyone was watching. This is NOT a tv show.

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