Marywood parents react to armed student on campus


Rachel Looker, Editor-in-Chief

“You could only imagine what was going through my head,” said Kathy Fendt, who has a daughter in her sophomore year at Marywood.

Fendt received a call from her daughter around 3:45 p.m. on the afternoon of Oct. 4. Her daughter was walking toward the Center for Natural and Health Sciences when she saw police and heard them screaming, “get down.”

Fendt was scared when she received the call and learned there was an armed individual on her daughter’s campus.

“My heart sunk. I was frantic,” said Fendt. “There was nothing I could do.”

Fendt’s daughter called her to ask what she should do when she saw the police officers surrounding the science building.

“I said turn around, crawl back to your car and drive,” Fendt told her daughter over the phone.

There was confusion as the situation was unfolding, but as the Marywood community would come to learn, Alex Barowski, a Marywood student, had a pistol on his belt in the Center for Natural and Health Sciences. Officials arrested Barowski who is being charged with making terroristic threats, simple assault, possessing unlawful body armor and reckless endangerment. Barowski was released from Lackawanna County Prison on Oct. 20 after posting $50,000 bail. At the request of his attorney, Barowski’s preliminary hearing was postponed twice and is now scheduled for Dec. 18.

After Fendt knew her daughter was safe, she made attempts to contact the university to find out what happened. She was connected and passed around to several people, but decided to hang up the phone because she felt she wasn’t obtaining any information. According to Fendt, she never spoke to a Campus Safety representative.

Fendt said she felt the university did not properly handle the situation. Her main concern: no e2Campus text alert.

“There were students in the bathroom, students going about their business while this was going on,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be the first thing to do to get everyone evacuated?”

Other parents agreed with Fendt and expressed concern that Marywood did not send an e2Campus text alerting the Marywood community to the situation. The university did send a text alert after the situation was resolved saying it was clear to return to classes and offices.

Jonathan Osborne, a father of a sophomore Marywood student, also heard about the incident through a phone call from his daughter. She called while the situation was happening, but only knew there was an armed individual on campus and had no additional information. Osborne asked his daughter to read him any emergency text alerts she received, but she told him there were none.

Osborne said his biggest fear during the situation was not knowing exactly what was happening.

“When I heard they weren’t notified by text message, I was angry,” he said. “They were kind of left in the dark.”

Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed. D, explained that an alert was not sent out because the incident was resolved before there was time to notify the Marywood community.

“I would think in these protocols, someone’s job is to put out a text message to students… I don’t think there’s any reason that a text message was not put out sooner than it was. Even if it was handled that quickly,” Osborne said.

Fendt didn’t understand Persico’s reasoning as to why an alert was not sent.

“There’s always time. My daughter was walking up to that building. It could have been a lot worse,” she said.

Celeste Ebert, a mother of a fourth-year architecture student, also found out about the incident through a phone call from her son. He called after police officers resolved the incident.

Ebert described herself as “shocked” and “scared” when she received her son’s phone call and said she was “surprised that I did not get the emergency alert notification.”

However, Ebert said her main concern with the incident was not the lack of e2Campus alert, but the fact that the university was not placed on lockdown.

“That’s what should have been done because nobody should have been walking around and trying to find out information. They should have been told to stay put,” she added.

However, Ebert said she understands Persico’s explanation that there was not enough time to send an e2Campus alert.

“If it meant that the time was used more to resolve the problem, than it’s fine,” she said. “If [sending out the alert] meant taking time away from safety of the kids, then that’s not a good thing.”

Anne Warcup, whose daughter is a Marywood student, said she thinks the situation was handled well.

Warcup said she does not think an e2Campus alert should have been sent because of the possibility of it alerting the armed student.

“It unfolded so quickly, they didn’t have time to let the campus know,” she said. “If he [the armed student] saw it himself, he would know it and it may have ended up a worse predicament than it was.”

Warcup said Campus Safety and the local police responded quickly and “got the situation under hand.”

“I feel she [my daughter] is very safe there and I have no concern whatsoever,” said Warcup.

Persico held a campus-wide meeting two days after the incident and explained what went right and what went wrong as the situation unfolded. During the meeting, she discussed future plans to make sure the Marywood community is prepared for an emergency situation.

Persico also mailed a letter to Marywood parents recapping the information she discussed during the meeting.

Additionally, she spoke to students at a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting held on Oct. 10 to discuss the incident. At the meeting, Persico said she “truly, truly, truly can understand how a parent would feel.”

She described how she has worked with young people for most of her life and views her students as her own kids.

“I’d stand in front of anybody and block you from getting a bullet,” Persico said to attendees of the SGA meeting. “I care. But that’s how parents are, and they freak out, and I understand.”

She added that the incident on Marywood’s campus happened two days after the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people.

“I can understand where your parents were really scared. I totally can understand it,” she said.

Osborne said he thought it was good that Persico held a campus-wide meeting and sent a letter, but would have liked to see the university take more responsibility for not sending a text alert.

“I would hope that the university follows up with everything that she’s outlined in this letter and there are drills that the students will have to participate in,” he said. “If something like this were to happen again or worse, the students are aware of what needs to be done and what’s expected of them to keep them safe.”

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