After Shakeel Khan was fatally shot in Johnson City on March 30, the Binghamton University administration remained silent about his murder until April 5.
Khan, who was Muslim, was shot multiple times and killed by a masked shooter outside his business, Halal Bites, while he was closing up for the day. The shooter has not been identified and is still at large. Before we delve into a discussion on BU’s response, the Editorial Board would like to extend our sincere condolences to Khan’s loved ones and anyone impacted by his passing.
News of Khan’s murder quickly circulated among community members and BU students, primarily due to a statement released by the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier (IOST) the same night of the shooting. Some Muslim and Desi students expressed feeling unsafe in the aftermath of the shooting. Many BU students and student organizations shared the news on social media, and at least 70 students met for an emergency meeting April 3 to support one another and to craft a letter to the administration. As the days passed, one question was on everyone’s mind: Where was the response from the University? Decol A released an open letter, co-signed by many campus organizations, to President Harvey Stenger condemning the University’s failure to notify students of the shooting, and it was only then that BU released a statement — six days after Khan’s murder.
The Editorial Board questions why the University took so long to release a statement. Stenger wrote that “the University does not issue B-Alerts in cases when a crime does not occur on or near University property.” We find this strange, though, because Halal Bites is located less than a mile away from BU’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and is frequented by BU students. We also find it improbable that the University did not know about the shooting until it released its statement. If BU is expanding into Johnson City, it should have close communication with the Johnson City Police Department and emergency responders.
Additionally, after the murders of two students in spring 2018, the administration said it would prioritize student safety. However, the delayed response from University officials reflects that BU did not learn from its mistakes a year ago. Underlying this situation is the glaring reality that the University administration is extremely disconnected from the student body. Even if “there was never any immediate threat to students,” as Stenger’s statement said, the fact remains that many students did feel unsafe, and that should have been enough for the University to take action. Once again, BU clearly does not know what students care about or what we need to feel safe. It should not have taken students bombarding the University on social media for it to break its silence. Even Stenger’s statement did not directly address any of the demands in the open letter, displaying a disregard for students’ concerns yet again.
The Editorial Board recognizes that a B-Alert was released shortly past midnight on April 10 notifying students of shots fired in Johnson City, indicating that the University seems to be getting more serious about its alerts. Still, why did it take someone dying for the University to properly utilize its emergency response systems?
While the Editorial Board supports Decol A’s letter, we must make mention of the fact that the organization signed some student groups’ names on the letter without their express consent. We understand that this was an honest mistake on Decol A’s part, as many members of different student organizations attended the emergency meeting when the letter was written, but we hope it will be more careful in the future so as not to detract from the central message of the letter. In an updated letter, Decol A demands the University extend the Safe Ride network and Off Campus College Transport “into areas adjacent to all university buildings in Johnson City and downtown Binghamton,” as well as provide an additional bus stop in front of the IOST mosque during the month of Ramadan.
What will it take for the University to finally make safety a priority? The Editorial Board hopes that the administration makes improvements and takes student concerns seriously in the near future — in case another unexpected tragedy occurs.