Public safety, student affairs make progress on Alumni Hall fire alarm epidemic

By Ben Diamond

Social Media Editor

Photo courtesy

In the Carlisle Foyer of Alumni Hall Tuesday evening, the sounds of hungry men eating pizza and the soft panting of Sal, a miniature English bulldog, offered the soundtrack to the news Springfield College’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Shannon Finning, was thankful to announce.

“We believe that we do know who did it,” Finning told the 40 or so Alumni residents. “Now, we are in the process of doing our investigation. I hope that means we’re done.”  

The “it” she was referring to was the month-long string of fire drills that have plagued the oldest dorm on campus. There were eleven false alarms, including two different nights where the alarms were set off twice, usually between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m

The most recent incident was Tuesday morning, at 3:30 a.m. and Finning has reason to believe that the assailant has been caught.

She credited the use of invisible ink, which apparently was found on a person’s hands when returning to the dorm by a Public Safety officer, who was scanning a black light over every student’s hands.

“We employed invisible ink because I had this visual of 200 of you pouncing on someone if we had chosen to use visible ink instead,” explained Finning. “Tell me some of you weren’t like ‘yeah that would’ve been me.'”

Not surprisingly, the entire room nodded its head in unison.

The suspect, a former student-athlete and a current junior, was seen Tuesday by multiple students leaving Alumni Hall being escorted by Public Safety officers. The college has not released an official statement, nor has it announced the person’s identity.

Finning made it clear that while she is hopeful these dangerous occurrences are over, she could not guarantee it.

“My hope is now that we have addressed the situation, and by having this meeting, that if anyone else is thinking of pulling the alarms, don’t do it because you will be caught. And I have absolutely no patience to go lightly in terms of punishment.”

On the topic of punishment, Finning wasn’t at liberty to give details but she did say, “My goal is not necessarily to go to a criminal penalty but at this stage, we’re beyond that.”

Finning used the question and answer session with the students as a way to provide transparency about the methods that were used to catch the perpetrator.

The students learned that Public Safety officers had been going undercover in their street clothes during the night in hopes of catching the student in the act of pulling the fire alarm, but every time this method was deployed, there were no attempts to set the alarms off.

“I authorized the use of some monitoring devices,” said Finning. “We are monitoring what is happening at every single one of the pull stations.”

Finning added that there are no cameras in any private areas (like people’s rooms) or in the bathrooms. Additionally, the footage is erased every 24 hours and is only checked if there is an incident.

“So if you’re streaking down the hallway, we aren’t seeing that,” Finning joked.

Finning redirected her attention to thanking the resident director of Alumni Hall, Peter Kapitancek.

“From the very first fire alarm that you had, you have had no stronger advocate for you than Pete. He came to me directly, and I agreed with him that what was happening here was unacceptable.”

Finning wanted the residents to know that every time they were woken up for a fire drill, she was woken up too. Even though she admitted she wasn’t braving the elements like them, she was sharing the same range of emotions: “pissed off, sad, and frustrated for all of you.”

The first month of school has not been kind to the all-male dorm and Finning addressed that as well.

“I appreciate and understand this is messing with your academics, your athletics, your sleep, your relationships, everything. And I am truly sorry.”

The members of the dorm community can only hope to remain as hopeful as Finning is about this situation being finally over.

For now, the residents of Alumni can sleep a bit better, fully aware of the precautions awaiting any person dumb enough to try to set the alarm off again.  
While Finning, her dog, and the free pizza were a nice treat for the boys of Alumni Hall, they all left hoping to never have a reason to meet with her in the foyer again.

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