Marywood president, friend of armed student speak at SGA meeting


Amanda Duncklee and Kaitlyn O’Meara

Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed. D. again promised students’ safety after an armed student was arrested on campus on Oct. 4.

Persico and Frank Scotti, a pre-physician assistant major and friend of armed student Alex Barowski, were both scheduled to speak at an Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Oct. 10 about their concerns and insights related to Alex Barowski, the armed student on campus.

In addition to SGA members, about 10 additional students attended the meeting to hear Persico speak.

According to SGA President Jenna Edmonds, Persico attends at least one SGA meeting per semester and was already scheduled to attend the Oct. 10 meeting to listen to students’ concerns. After the incident the week before, Persico decided to take a more active role at the meeting.

Sr. Mary addresses armed student incident

Persico began her speech with an analogy relateable to at least a few college students.

“Did you ever do something really bad on a Saturday night?” asked Persico, whose question was met with laughter.

“Well, that’s how I feel,” said Persico. “I’m going to beg you not to say to me, ‘Sister, how come we didn’t have an all-out alert last week? Sister, how come we didn’t know what to do? Sister, how come our faculty didn’t know what to do?’ I can’t hear it one more time… I’ve heard it a million times, so I’m going to tell you my side of the story.”

Persico described the events that took place that day in chronological order in a similar way to how she discussed the incident at a campus-wide meeting on Oct. 6.

Persico said she was in her office when she was alerted there was a situation at the Center for Natural Health and Sciences. According to Persico, she did not know the specifics of the incident and asked law enforcement what was happening as she approached the building.

When she learned there was a person on campus with a gun, she said to another adult on campus, “we need to get an e2Campus alert out right now.”

“I have my phone in my hand. I start calling people who are going to do the e2Campus alert,” Persico said. “As soon as I’m doing that, I turn around and the police are coming back toward me.”

Persico said the police walked back to her in a much calmer manner.

“I go and talk to them and they said, ‘its all over,’” said Persico.

She said she asked another Campus Safety officer why the alert wasn’t sent out. The Campus Safety officer “made a decision to go to the venue first” rather than send out an e2Campus alert, according to Persico.

Persico explained that law enforcement officials and first responders told the Campus Safety officer to meet them at the location of the incident. She said the officer made a decision to go to the science building before sending out an alert, but she said the officer later said “it may have been the wrong decision.”

“It’s not that we weren’t going to get out the e2Campus alert,” said Persico. “We should have gotten it out sooner, but it just didn’t happen.”

Persico stated multiple times throughout the meeting that students’ safety was her main concern while the situation was unfolding. In addition, she promised that the protocols and drills in place will be implicitly followed in the future.

“The first thing that’s ever going to happen, no matter what, is the alert’s going to go out,” said Persico, referring to the possibility of another hazardous situation. “Promise, guarantee, you can count on it because right now, if [an incident] happened right this second, it’s all in place.”

Persico said that she sent out a letter to parents via snail mail that explains the situation. She said the letter included positives about the situation, such as how no one getting hurt, as well as the negative aspect that an e2Campus alert was not sent out.

“We’re just grateful no one got hurt, right?” Persico asked the attendees before moving on to the topic of social media and how community members used the Internet following the event.

Persico expressed her discontent regarding members of the Marywood community who made assumptions about protocols and the training Marywood personnel possess to deal with these types of emergency situations.

“People get [on] social media, they put this stuff on there that says, ‘Marywood doesn’t do this, Marywood doesn’t do that, Marywood stinks and all that stuff and you know what happens?” Persico asked. “People say, ‘I’m not sending my kid to Marywood.’ And what happens? Our enrollment tanks, and then we get in trouble.”

“Why would [people] do that without knowing the facts?” Persico asked. She advised students to remind others that they are damaging the university’s reputation with the spread of “mean and rotten things about Marywood that aren’t true.”

Edmonds echoed Persico’s sentiment about students posting negative things about the university on social media and encouraged students to attend SGA meetings.

“We have 24 committed, elected members in this room who want to make changes and want to do good things for Marywood,” said Edmonds. “We always have open ears with meetings open to everybody every two weeks, so there’s no need to make petitions; there’s no need to bad-mouth Marywood on social media.”

Persico left shortly after she spoke to the attendees and said she thinks the meeting went “very well.”

“I have a great respect for student leaders,” said Persico. “They’re very thoughtful and have amazing skills and take what they do seriously.”

Persico reiterated her vow to students regarding their safety, saying,“I hope everyone understands we promise to do all that we can to make this the safest campus. We can and we will make good on our promise.”

Scotti speaks

After Persico left the meeting, Frank Scotti, a transfer pre-physician assistant major and friend of armed student Alex Barowski, spoke to SGA members.

“[Barowski] did not have intent to hurt anyone. He was wrong. He should not have had a weapon on campus,” said Scotti. “He carries a weapon as a lawful member of society and also as a member of the military,” he said.

According to Scotti, Barowski showed a student the gun in response to being asked what he thought about the recent Las Vegas tragedy.

“There was no threat,” said Scotti. “He showed somebody, which was stupid, that he carried a weapon on campus. He did what he did, but at the same time, it was somebody who was being hypersensitive because of a knee-jerk reaction [following the Las Vegas shooting].”

Scotti urged the attendees to “use critical thinking” to understand that Barowski did not intend to cause harm and cited Barowski’s compliance with law enforcement as evidence for this.

Scotti referred to charges of terroristic threats against Barowski as “complete fabrications” and noted Barowski could face at least 10 years as a result of such charges.

“Are you going to let somebody who was deployed to combat for you to defend your rights serve time for nothing? He broke a school rule, that is it, and he was wrong for that, but do not demonize him and do not allow the media to vilify him the way they’ve done,” said Scotti.

Scotti left the meeting after he spoke.

Edmonds said she appreciated Persico and Scotti speaking at the meeting and encouraged other students to do the same.

“I’m glad people came out to listen; it always makes me really happy and of course, anyone is welcome to come [to SGA meetings],” Edmonds said.

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