By Ethan Tan
Roughly 40 students gathered in Gleeson Plaza on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 26, in a sit-in protest regarding the University’s response to Sunday night’s incident and to demand changes to the way the University handles emergency situations. The protesters were joined by faculty, staff, and University administration members — President Paul Fitzgerald was also in attendance.
Leaders of the sit-in have launched a petition titled “Demands for USF Safety Protocol” and were collecting signatures both on paper and on change.org. At the time of press, the online petition has less than 150 signatures, and it is unclear how many signatures were recorded on the paper copy passed around at the protest.
The student protesters listed three major demands for the University in their petition.
The first calls for increased transparency around campus emergency procedures, including those around communication, expectations of campus officials, and information sharing between students and campus officials.
The second demand calls for transparency and clarity around the definition of “timely warning,” along with ensuring that the campus is equipped with functional emergency equipment such as emergency exit doors, panic buttons, alarms, and emergency phones.
The third and final demand calls for the creation of training programs around active shooter scenarios in order to ensure students are aware of campus procedures. The petition suggests that such training could occur through drills or be incorporated in the University’s already-mandatory awareness and prevention course for incoming students, formerly “Think About It.”
According to multiple Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) student employees, who were not authorized to speak publically, at the time of the event on Sunday, the Gillson Hall front desk’s “panic button,” which offers CAs (community assistants) a direct line to Public Safety, was not operating correctly.
Eden Nobile, a sophomore who helped organize the protest, addressed the attendees by saying that the demands would “put students first” in response to the “administration not telling students what was going on.”
Following Nobile, Fitzgerald told the audience that “the message is clear” and “safety is important.” Fitzgerald also requested that the community think about the student who was arrested on Sunday and pray that the student seeks the help that he needs.
Daniel Lawson, the head of the Department of Public Safety, identified the student arrested as freshman Isaac Berg in a campus-wide email sent after the protest. Berg was initially arrested on Sunday night on two counts of making criminal threats and two counts of stalking. He was bailed out on a $75,000 bond on Monday night, only to be rearrested early Tuesday morning on one count of carjacking, one count of assault with a deadly weapon (not a firearm), and one count of an allegation of an offense while on bail. Regarding Tuesday’s new charges, Lawson’s email only mentioned the one count of carjacking.
According to public records from the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department, Berg is in custody and is being held on $150,000 bail on the three new felony charges. A court date has not been set. If convicted, he faces up to two decades in state prison.
San Francisco Police Department officials confirmed to CBS San Francisco that Berg was also served emergency restraining orders at the time of his initial arrest.
Sophomore Kate Donovan, a protest organizer and CA, told the Foghorn that, considering her job, she felt like she needed to do something to protect herself and her co-workers “especially with this pattern of USF administration not following through with prioritizing the students.”
Donovan and Nobile, as well as fellow sophomore Karisa Cortez, decided to organize the protest after consulting with a professor after class on Monday, as they felt that things needed to be changed after Sunday’s incident to better protect and alert students.
Nobile told the audience that after the Thanksgiving holiday, there would be a “more organized protest” to hold the administration accountable to their demands and to have a bigger conversation, as they believe this incident “goes much deeper as it shows problems at this University” when it comes to acting in the best interest of students.
When asked about the incident on Sunday, the three organizers said that they found out about the threat in different ways and all wish that the University communicated the message that an incident involving armed police was taking place.
Nobile, who lives in Toler Hall, said that they could see and hear what was happening as Berg was screaming obscenities at San Francisco Police Department officers and Public Safety personnel. “My RA (resident adviser) whose window overlooks campus saw armed police with AKs [AK-47 assault rifles], so that’s when we barricaded ourselves into a dorm.”
During an open comment period, a student who could not be identified said that the University should be doing more to take claims of sexual harassment seriously, as Berg allegedly harassed and threatened multiple female students before making his threats about an on-campus shooting on Sunday afternoon. The student also addressed the need for emergency procedures so that students with physical disabilities could be safe and find appropriate shelter.
Overall, students at the sit-in expressed that communication needed to improve and safety measures should be updated.
In an email statement to the Foghorn, Julie Orio, vice provost of Student Life, said, “We will be reviewing and acting on the demands that have been or will be submitted by the Black Student Union (BSU) and the group of students protesting today … We recognize that our team can always do better in terms of communication, training, and disseminating information regarding safety and emergency notifications.”
Campus community members can visit USF’s new web page that is dedicated to updates and resources for community members regarding the incident. Current emergency preparedness plans can be accessed there.