In November 2012, a student was walking alone through the Oswego State campus late at night, when he was approached by five assailants. The student was assaulted, an event that led to an email being released to all students. The five attackers were never found.
Cases of fighting or assault like this are rare occurrences on college campuses. At Oswego State, there were only six cases of assault, which account for less than 1 percent of the overall crimes on campus, documented in the annual crime report.
Chief of Campus Police, John Rossi, is confident in his department’s ability to keep the campus safe under its watch, with officers patrolling round-the-clock.
“There haven’t been a lot of serious incidents over the years, it’s a very safe campus,” Rossi said. “We’re trying to prevent anything from escalating.”
Even off campus, cases of assault or physical harassment are relatively low. In the last month, roughly 20 percent of the reported crimes recorded by the City of Oswego Police Department were related to physical violence.
Not all of the incidents were severe enough to be classified as assault, but almost all of the cases involved college-age adults. Lieutenant Zachary Misztal of the Oswego city police said that there are different levels for classifying incidents that involve fighting, which depend on the amount of harm done.
Mitszal also said that city police officers work in tandem with campus police to fact-find and get to the bottom of such cases.
“At the end of the day, we’re all police officers,” Misztal said. “Our departments work really well together treating all cases, on and off campus, with equal importance.”
Associate Dean of Students for Student Conduct and Compliance, Lisa Evanenski, said the Office of Student Conduct and Compliance works with all parties involved in any incident, following up with everyone who was involved to adjudicate fairly.
“Students need to learn to resolve conflicts in another way,” Evaneski said. “It is our hope that students will learn to walk away from verbal altercations and avoid it turning physical.”
Depending on the severity of the incident, students who are involved in a physical altercation could be arrested and would have to go to a formal hearing that could result in suspension or possibly expulsion.
In the case of random assaults like the one that happened last November, Evaneski urges students to avoid situations like it at all costs.
“I encourage students to put their hands up, palms out if they need to get out of a situation to avoid a closed fist assault,” Evaneski said.
It is best for anyone confronted like this to avoid escalating it to the point of physical harm, and then to seek help from the authorities, and follow through with appropriate measures to resolve the issue.
Even though the school doesn’t encourage students to physically react to an assault, there are numerous agencies or clubs on campus that teach self-defense, such as the Aikido Club.
Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the early 1900’s. Opposed to forms of martial arts that are rigid, and focus on attacks, throws, and grapples, aikido is solely based on self-defense. A practitioner of aikido never initiates an attack, but uses a natural flow to redirect the energy of an attacker against himself.
Ushiba, who was a famous martial artist in his time, as well as a veteran of World War II, created this martial art on the foundation of understanding oneself, as well as the opponent.
“When someone attacks you, most likely they’re in some way or another injured themselves,” said J. Lachlan Kadick, the aikido instructor, who has over 10 years of experience. “Very rarely is it someone who is a purely vicious person. It could be someone who desperately needs money, or someone who’s simply intoxicated.”
Campus police and Oswego City police, as well as the OSCC, agree that alcohol is the number one instigator of fights and assaults on campus. The difference between getting caught up in a fight, and realizing when to walk away may be as simple as trying to understand the other persons involved.
“So rather than break their arms or maiming them, we want to be able to effectively stop them without causing them harm,” Kadick said.
In their classes, the students even shy away from calling their opponent an “opponent.” Instead, they are always referred to as their “partner.”
“One of the things I liked about aikido was that instead of getting angry with each other, we’re actually working with each other,” said Matt Tabor, a grad student at Oswego and the senior student of the club. “Any resistance I give to my partner is to help them realize an opening, or something they can improve on, not to boast about how much better I am.”
Even though the Aikido Club centers around self-defense, Kadick agrees with authorities in that avoidance is the best way to keep yourself from ending up in a bad situation.
“Stay aware of your surroundings, stay in lighted areas, and check your blind spots,” Kadick said. “If you find yourself confronted on campus, try to run into a building and contact the authorities.”
The Aikido Club plans to take part in the next Global Awareness Conference. It hopes to educate people on the ideals of the martial art, showcasing the importance of the spiritual and mental aspects that are sometimes overlooked by the physicality of the art.