Sr. Mary addresses armed student incident


Photo credit/ Anne Zukowski

Sr. Mary speaks to a crowd in the Performing Arts Center.

Brooke Williams, News Editor

Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D addressed what went right and what went wrong about an incident with an armed student on campus at a public meeting Friday morning.

Police arrested Marywood student Alex Barowski, 28 of Archbald, late Wednesday afternoon for having a weapon on campus.

Barowski is facing multiple charges, including making terroristic threats, simple assault, possessing unlawful body armor and reckless endangerment, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Persico began the meeting by describing Wednesday’s events in detail.

According to Persico, Barowski and another student were having a conversation in the Center for Natural and Health Sciences around 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Barowski showed the other student a pistol on his belt.

The other student reported what they saw to a faculty member. This faculty member contacted Campus Safety. Campus Safety called 911 and mobilized to the site.

Persico said responders arrived in about two minutes and told everyone to evacuate the building. Barowski left the building and went to his truck in the upper pit parking lot behind Loughran Hall.

Police apprehended Barowski in the parking lot and arrested him. He did not resist arrest.

Persico said this event transpired in about 20 minutes.

Persico addresses what went right on Wednesday

She commended the student who spoke up about the situation, the faculty member who contacted Campus Safety and the Campus Safety officers who reacted quickly.

She also commended the three local police departments and the state police for their quick response time and fast resolution of the incident. Nearly 60 police officers and first responders came to campus, she said.

Persico added that another aspect of the incident that went right was Barowski cooperating fully with the police.

Lastly, she said the “best possible thing that went right” was that “no one was hurt or worse.”

Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Sarah Kenehan said the administration handled the situation well because of the things that went right. She also said Persico exhibited “a lot of grace and compassion” and addressed what went wrong in the situation.

“There’s certainly areas for improvement, but all things considered, I think we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Kenehan said.

Persico addresses what went wrong on Wednesday

She pointed out that an E2Campus alert did not get sent out to inform everyone of the incident while it was unfolding. An E2Campus alert did go out once the situation was resolved.

On Wednesday, the day of the incident, Persico said the reasoning for not sending out the message was because the situation was happening so quickly that they did not get the opportunity.

Persico said she has tried to explain the reasons why the E2Campus alert was not sent out, but said she was told in person, through emails and on social media that the reasons were excuses and cover ups. She told attendees of the meeting Friday morning that she was not going to discuss these reasons.

“If you want to know, you can ask me at any time. But I think for the purpose of this conversation, it won’t help if I go into those reasons,” she added.

Persico said not sending out the E2Campus alert affected everyone on campus, including people at the Holy Family Residence, people at the Fricchione Daycare Center, people on their way to campus and more.

She acknowledged the feelings of confusion, fright and anger in the Marywood community, and said these emotions were justified.

“All of those emotions that people have in a situation like that have been communicated to me over and over again. I hear that. I understand it. I feel it,” she said.

Another problem during the incident last Wednesday was the mixed messages given by law enforcement, Persico said. Some law enforcement officials said to evacuate and move away from the site while others said to shelter in place, which “contributed to the confusion and to the chaos.”

Some faculty members were also confused on what to do because they did not know what was happening, she said.

“No one can be faulted. Everybody used his or her best judgement,” Persico said.

Persico said the last thing that went wrong was people using their phones in the midst of the confusion.

“Because of the confusion, people were phoning, texting, face-timing, tweeting… while this event was happening, to their parents, to their friends, and to other people on and off campus. And that just escalated the fear,” she said.

Persico discusses how to move forward

Persico said she wanted to clear up a report that “we have no protocols in place for events such as this.”

The Wood Word issued a correction to a published article that stated Persico said Marywood has no protocols in place for a situation with a firearm on campus.

She said the university has an emergency drill planned for next month where the scenario will be a shooter on campus, and that this drill was planned before Wednesday’s incident. She said others will be planned throughout the year.

She also said there will be an in-depth analysis of the event conducted by a group of people on campus, including the Dean of Students, Faculty Senate, the Student Government Association (SGA) and more.

Earlier this semester, Persico said she announced that a task force would be formed to review all of Marywood’s emergency policies, and that this will continue to happen.

She also pointed out that Marywood staff do receive training, “contrary to some reports,” and that there will be appropriate training for everyone on campus.

She said she had a conversation with local law enforcement and discussed having them come on campus to develop a protocol that will be able to “integrate what we do with what they do so we won’t have that situation where the police officers are giving contradictory instructions.”

In the future, E2Campus messages will be sent out to campus when an event occurs. Persico implored everyone to enroll in E2Campus.

Other areas like broken locks in buildings will be fixed, and parents of students will soon receive a mail publication.

“Those are the things that we’re going to do to make sure that all the things that went wrong won’t go wrong the next time,” she said.

Before concluding the meeting with a prayer for Barowski, his family, the Marywood community, and the police and first responders who came to campus, she ensured everyone that safety is a top priority.

“We sincerely care about your safety and well-being and want you to feel secure as a member of the Marywood community,” she said.

Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Sr. John Michele Southwick, IHM, attended the meeting and said she appreciated Persico’s transparency about the situation.

“I thought it was wonderful that she had this meeting, that she was willing to speak about what went right and what went wrong,” Southwick said. “She was open, honest, admitted there were things we needed to do differently and she’s willing to look at that and make changes.”

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