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Friday, Mar 1, 2024
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Opinion: What is on or off campus?

The bridge connects the Phase 5 Lofts to Mercer's campus.Photo by Blossom Onunekwu.
The bridge connects the Phase 5 Lofts to Mercer's campus.Photo by Blossom Onunekwu.

As a freshman on Mercer University’s campus, you are brought into a mandatory meeting where various people of authority positions come to talk to you about a number of things.

From club involvement to what times the caf is open, nothing is left out. Near the end of this discussion, freshmen are reminded that they can be protected while on campus by Mercer Police.  

Mercer Police or anyone else employed by Mercer cannot guarantee safety off the premises, but while on campus, they are looking out for you. However, what does “on campus” mean?

At what point do we, the students of Mercer University, cross the imaginary line of safety? We have been warned that Macon as a whole is not the safest city, but where are the boundaries between the university and community?

These answers should be simple, but instead, there is no one answer, rather there are various rabbit holes that all lead to different conclusions. What is “on campus” and what is “off campus?” That’s the best place to start.

When navigating Mercer University’s official website, you can find that the “Lofts at Mercer”  is an option of student residency for second year students and older.  

There are two separate tabs on the website for student living, “residence halls” and “off-campus living.” The Lofts are not listed as an off-campus housing option, rather an option for sophomores and juniors that is considered on campus.  

Living in The Lofts meets the on-campus residency requirement and the accommodations to live there are made through Mercer’s central room selection process.

However, they make sure to explicitly state that while this is an “on-campus” living arrangement, the rent is paid directly through The Lofts system, not through an individual student’s Mercer account.

Although rent is paid separately, Mercer can place holds on student accounts for infractions such as an undocumented pet in the room, a parking ticket associated with the lofts parking deck, etc.

So while one does not pay Mercer to live in The Lofts directly through their student account, it is still protected under their on-campus living requirements of ALL second and third-year students.

Students who live in any of The Lofts are required to follow the on-campus meal plan requirements for second and third-year students. So while, yes, students who live in The Lofts at Mercer pay the loft system individually, there is still a direct “on campus” relationship between the students and campus, especially when it pertains to money.

After last year’s shooting at Mercer Village a conversation was started as to why students were so late in being alerted about potential danger and threats on campus.

President Underwood at the time was “convinced that we can do much better in the timing of those alerts,” according to a Cluster article. Well, I am convinced that is not the case considering no alert was issued in this semester’s gun-related threat.

Rather than treat this as a threat towards a Mercer student, Mercer Police was quoted in a Cluster article saying that because Stadium Drive is a public street, it was not protected under the on-campus protocol.

Also, because the car that had the gun continued to roll forward, further into campus, and leave the scene, it was considered “not a continuing or ongoing threat” which in return did not require an alert to students, according to The Cluster article.

However, according to the campus map created and published by Mercer University and posted throughout their website, all locations, including the recent drive-by incident, are shown as being on campus.

The map shows these roads, lofts, classroom buildings and restaurants, as “on campus” areas that are supposed to be under protection for students.

This leads me back to the original question, what is on campus and what is off campus? There needs to be a defined line, not some imaginary one that moves to meet the interest of whichever party is involved.

Students deserve to know where they are protected and what is considered an “ongoing threat” to their safety. If a car that rolls down the window, points a gun at a student and continues to drive further into campus is not an ongoing threat, fine. Then define what is.

If alerts are not sent out to warn the student body of issues that happen on the sites listed on  Mercer University Macon Campus, fine. Then define what is on or off campus.

There should be a clear answer for all of these questions and concerns, and if there isn’t, it’s time to make them. It’s time to draw a visible line and ignite change that starts on campus and pours into the surrounding community, but first, we must make Mercer and it’s students a priority.

What is on campus and what is off campus? We have to know.



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