Lehigh is often thought to be in a bubble. No, not a tangible one with concrete walls that physically separate students from the outside community, but a metaphorical one that makes students feel safe and secure.
The strength of this bubble was tested on Aug. 29 when students received an alarming HawkWatch alert. The vague email, titled “Timely Warning: Active Investigation of Threat,” sent a chill throughout campus.
“At approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Lehigh University Police Department (LUPD) was notified by several current students about a specific threat that was directed to a group of Lehigh students known to an individual identified as a former student,” the alert read.
The message included photos of the individual, along with a screenshot from his Tik Tok account.
With such resources provided, students immediately got to work — used to instant gratification and knowledge at their fingertips, Gen Z often specializes in Internet “stalking.”
Within moments, the individual’s Instagram handle, TikTok account and even his Spotify username were being shared.
Thanks to Instagram story highlights, a quick click allowed students to see the menacing content with their own eyes. Perusing unsettling videos and aggressive posts, it was clear that the threat, made by a former Lehigh student, was real.
Fear was somewhat palpable as the “timely warning” quickly dominated campus conversations.
ID cards were now required to enter campus buildings, and police cars were present on nearly every corner. Whether it be in the Linderman rotunda or in line at Rathbone, the topic gave students something common to talk about.
While many were frightened by the risk, others weren’t. Others continued to feel a sense of distance from the incident despite LUPD branding it a “timely warning.”
Just two days after the initial alert, students were notified that the individual was detained in New York.
As a result, campus operations returned to normal. The campus community was thanked for its vigilance throughout the investigation.
A collective sigh of relief escaped the student body as people told their friends and families that things were okay, and activities resumed as normal.
At Lehigh University, students feel as though they are encapsulated by a protective bubble.
Yes, the message was scary. Anyone would agree that learning of impending danger is terrifying, especially hearing that one’s own school and classmates are the targets of such a threat. Even worse, it was evident that LUPD perceived a risk by its sending of frequent messages – even if those updates were simply to announce that there were no updates.
Yet whenever something of this caliber occurs, the same thing usually happens. Students get nervous, rumors circulate and then they move on. Classes resume as scheduled and the cycle repeats until something else more newsworthy, and typically frightening, takes its place.
We should consider why we react the way we do to these events. Are they so normalized that they hardly phase us anymore? Has the social media landscape made us so accustomed to “violent words” that we are able to easily brush past them?
When tragic events occur outside the “Lehigh bubble,” they are easy to ignore. The click of a “power off” button or the switch of a TV remote can make it possible to forget whatever one chooses to forget. Shutting out the rest of the world is simple.
Luckily, nothing came of the situation, and so the status quo remains. We continue to take for granted the security that we often believe we have within our bubble – until we are once again reminded that this bubble doesn’t actually exist.