- Eric Santomauro-Stenzel
As community processes shooting threat, student’s court appearance delayed
CLINTON, NY – A first court appearance for the Hamilton student accused of threatening to “shoot up” Kirner-Johnson (KJ) on April 16th was delayed Tuesday. Peter Ashby Howard III ‘25 had been issued an appearance ticket for May 2nd at 6:30pm at the Town of Kirkland Court for a class B misdemeanor charge of Making a Threat of Mass Harm. However, the Court adjourned prior to the appearance without announcing why or rescheduling. A Court official told Monitor to call back the next week for more information; the Court is only open for two hours every Tuesday.
Howard, who is on interim suspension pending judicial proceedings, was arrested on campus several hours after the threat made on the anonymous social media app Jodel caused the College to order a shelter-in-place, at first mistakenly announcing the threat as an active shooter. Law enforcement and College officials said they identified Howard as the suspect through cooperation from community members and Jodel.
Many students have been angered by President David Wippman and Deans Chris Card and Ngoni Munemo’s decision to continue normal operations and request faculty be flexible with assignments despite widespread calls for class cancelation or optionality in the days after the threat, among other advocacies for increased mental health support and improved crisis management. Student Assembly had sent a request the night of the threat for class cancellations the next two days. In an extremely rare simultaneous appearance, the three senior administrators attended the SA meeting this Monday to answer questions and concerns from student representatives.
President Wippman also addressed the matter at Tuesday’s faculty meeting, though Monitor was unable to report as he spoke at approximately the same time as the scheduled court appearance.
Wippman, Card, and Munemo fielded several questions and concerns from SA. Wippman answered all of them himself. According to President Wippman, all classrooms can now be locked from the inside. Further, the College is likely to do drills in the future and is looking into the effectiveness of the current PA system. He felt the Assembly’s role in crisis response ought to serve as a streamlined communication channel on behalf of students. Repeatedly, though, students pressed about the negative impact on many students’ mental health and performance from returning to normal less than 12 hours after the end of the shelter-in-place order.
“I was penalized by a professor for not attending class,” said Class of 2025 President Kiara Nelson. They proposed alternative options like open office hours and setting more strict expectations for how faculty should approach their classes following the event. While many professors were flexible, Nelson pointed out, “I’m certain that many students might not have explicitly felt like they had to attend class but professors can talk about course material so you’re still being held at a disadvantage even if you’re technically allowed to not go to class.”
Wippman replied, “My impression is the overwhelming majority of the faculty were supportive, but I’m going to talk with faculty tomorrow.”
Isa Cardoso ‘25 pressed further and shared the lasting impact of the threat on her personal well-being and academics, reiterating other students’ discontent. “In this circumstance, students who needed time to recover were not given the space that they needed because it felt imperative to go to class because life goes on without them.” She emphasized that while her own professors were supportive, “the fact is class was held and I was not there, and when I went to class the next time I had missed things. I was behind because I chose to take care of myself on that Monday afterwards, and I shouldn’t have been punished for being traumatized.”
Wippman responded, “Again I understand some of the pressure to go to class, it’s certainly not intended as a punishment. Remember, people miss class all the time for lots of reasons.” He continued, “It’s never intended as a punishment. You’re expected to know what was covered.”
There were no more questions and the Assembly moved to the next agenda item.