Commentary: Handling of Jonatha Carr incident shows the true FAU

Rachel Chapnick

Rachel Chapnick

FAU’s been blessed. Instead of bodies lying around GS 120 after Jonatha Carr’s outburst, the school had an opportunity to learn and fix things. Too bad it didn’t learn. Or fix anything.

The school is going to get bad publicity from this — you usually do when teachers and students have their lives threatened on video. But it isn’t the mistakes during the incident that concern me. It’s the mistakes they made after.

FAU’s first mistake? Stephen Kajiura’s class was not told that police took Carr to South County Mental Health Center. Students had no idea where she was, or if she was coming back.

Afterwards? FAU PD released their police report. The problem? Nothing was redacted. I now have Carr’s address, cell phone number, driver’s license number and address. But I also have that information for Carr’s mother, the professors who helped subdue her, and the student who Carr struck. I’m not the only one with this information. FAU PD is releasing it to anyone who requests it, and one newspaper actually published it. All of it.

Despite that, FAU had the opportunity to address these mistakes. Members of administration, FAU police and Psychological Services visited Kajiura’s next class — on the Thursday following Carr’s outburst — to talk with students.

When mathematics junior Rachel Bustamante (the girl who recorded the video of Carr’s threats) told me about this meeting, I was excited. I thought police would give students advice about what to do if they were ever trapped in a similar situation. Maybe Psychological Services could offer help to students who watched their classmate’s breakdown.

Kudos to them for moving forward, right? Not exactly.

According to an anonymous student, administrators just made students more uncomfortable. The meeting consisted of “The dean of students and a couple other people who didn’t really say anything important,” the student said.

Terry Mena, Associate Dean of Students, and the FAU Police (FAUPD) declined to comment, while Psychological Services said any information they discussed with students was privileged. But, the anonymous student said, “[Administrators] said if [Carr] came back we should call the police, and if she did come back [Administration was] confident she would not have a weapon.”

Right, well, now I feel safe.

Plus, administration “kind of created a paradox,” said Bustamante. “They said they couldn’t have seen it coming, but then they said she won’t do it again.” Bustamante revealed administration “had a kind of a clean-up-the-mess mentality.” Students were allowed to ask questions, but Bustamante and the anonymous student said the mood was very defensive.

This meeting should have alleviated students’ concerns. Instead, it amplified them, apparently  in an attempt to convince everyone that FAU acted perfectly. The students, who this meeting was for, thought it was pointless.

Serious concerns were discussed at this meeting, but they were not the main points students took away from it. Apparently, Mena was angry students took out phones and started recording, according to the anonymous student. “The Dean of Students expressed concern that although there seemed to be a threat in the room, most students grabbed iPhones,” she said.

At least students’ phones were out. What were they supposed to call police with?

In all fairness to Mena, Justin White, the professor who restrained Carr and used his jiu-jitsu skills to get her out of the classroom until police arrived, agreed. “There were signs everyone should have left the room.” White said, “I’m grateful [the incident was recorded] but I think leaving would have been a safer course of option.”

My question, then, is what signs were showed Carr to be a threat? Seriously, at what point should students have realized the girl asking “how does evolution kill black people,” was dangerous? When Bustamante began filming, Carr was clapping and flailing in her seat. Had I seen this, I doubt I would have initially considered her dangerous. What are the signs someone is a threat? Was she dangerous when she started cursing? When she made threats? When she stood up?

White answered these types of questions in his class, while administrators were defending themselves across the hall. “We had a very productive conversation about what to do and what not to do if it happens again,” White said. He also explained basic safety techniques for his class.

Maybe administration should borrow notes from White’s students.

Even still, FAU as a whole did a lot of things right. Our students called police. And according to FAU’s Crisis Action Guide (CAG), that’s what they’re supposed to do if they see someone acting suspicious.

Our professors may have strayed from the guide, but they performed magnificently. Kajiura tried to keep his class calm. White made sure his students were safe, and then restrained a girl who posed a threat across the hall.

The CAG says if there’s an intruder on campus, one should run in a zigzag pattern while calling the police. I like Kajiura and White’s methods better.

Instead of getting violent with a woman who tried to attack them, our police department Baker Acted her and did not cause her harm. Carr told her class she was having “a fucking mental breakdown.” If that was the case, thanks to our officers, she will now get the help she needs.

Again, the school did a lot of things right. But instead of trying to cover up what went wrong, be honest. Tell us “this is what we did wrong, and this is how we’re going to fix it. If you’re in this situation again, this is what you should do and why.”

Please use this as a learning experience, FAU. We’ve had three on-campus shootings in our school’s history — one after Virginia Tech. In the latter two, thankfully no one was killed. This situation could have been a lot worse. I’d say our school’s been pretty lucky. Let’s use these situations so in the future we won’t need luck. I’d rather say I go to ‘the school where that girl flipped out in evolution class’ than ‘the school where all those people died.’

After all, a viral video on YouTube is pretty small as far as catastrophes go.

In a previous version of this story, Terry Mena’s title was listed as Dean of Students. That is incorrect, as his title is Associate Dean of Students. It has since been corrected.