An assault outside of Carlson. Speculative tweets. Passing rumors. Last week, University of Toledo’s campus was a case study on the convergence of crime, misinformation and social media. The Independent Collegian sat down with UTPD Chief Jeff Newton to sort through what really happened.
Q: What happened outside of Carlson Library a couple of weeks ago? There were rumors all the way from jumpings to gang initiations. What really happened?
A: “[The rumors] are mystifying. I think it’s just one of the effects of social media. We had one report that happened on Sunday, [April 14] at 10 p.m. where an individual called and indicated that he was struck in the face by an unknown individual. Nothing was taken. He was approached by three males [and] somebody asked him for the time, he looked at his phone, he was punched and the three individuals ran away. He refused medical [attention]. He was not injured aside from swelling around his lip and that was it. It was labeled a simple assault. We received no other reports of any incidents like that [and] haven’t since.”
Q: What do you make of the rumors? Were you hearing them?
A: “To our surprise, we were getting calls about jumpings and muggings and alerts and multiple instances. In each of those cases, we said, ‘Hey, we only have this one report. But please, if there’s more out there, we certainly would like to know that.’ To this day, we only still have that one report. So it appears that for some reason the story grew on social media, became more than what it was and we had folks that were calling us because they heard from a person, who heard from a person, who heard from a person who saw it on Twitter. [The assault] was an unfortunate situation but it wasn’t a campus emergency.”
Q: There was also a body found on Health Science Campus recently. What can you tell students about that?
A: “I can’t get into a lot of detail because it’s under investigation. What I can tell you is that an employee who was leaving work called in a down person. When we responded that person was found to be deceased and it’s under investigation, but an analysis was done and based on the evidence that was provided at the scene, it was determined very quickly that there was no threat to campus safety at all. But, in fact, there was a very unfortunate circumstance, a deceased person. It’s still currently under investigation. Toledo Police are taking more of a lead on that for several reasons. That’s all I can say on that right now.”
Q: Why were no UT Alerts sent out? Is it because both situations posed no direct threat to campus safety?
A: “That is in fact the reason. The purpose for the alert is to provide information to students to advise them of a threat to campus safety. In the case of the person who was punched, for simple assaults, we will not send an alert out; it’s just not a campus emergency. In the situation on the Health Science Campus…it was determined that there was no threat to the campus. That’s why an alert wasn’t sent out. As troubling as that situation was to discover, there was no value in sending an alert out. Doing so might have caused ‘unnecessary concern to the public.”