Editorial: Denison scavenger hunt wasn’t funny


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The area around Ruskin Hall was the site of the first account of suspicious activity in Oakland this week.

Pitt students and the Oakland community spent the week in fear after multiple women reported to police feeling like men were targeting women at night. Throughout the week, students — and in particular female students — were understandably afraid to walk alone at night.

But it turns out the inciting incident of suspicious activity was part of a scavenger hunt for students from Denison University, a college near Columbus, Ohio. What was meant as a dumb prank played with the real fears of thousands of women at Pitt.

The first incident of suspicious activity happened at about 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, when two men got out of a car at the intersection of Fifth and Ruskin avenues and chased a woman to Ruskin Hall. A social media post sharing the incident circulated on campus, sparking concern among female students.

The second incident was reported Wednesday night when a student living on Atwood called police and said she heard a woman screaming and saw a car quickly driving away.

Pitt Police interviewed Denison University students Richard Calder Buonocore, Matthew Redmond, Otto Laakonen and Jack Armstrong in connection with the first incident. They confirmed the Denison students were at Pitt participating in a scavenger hunt with an informal campus group. Among the Pittsburgh-specific tasks of “visiting Pittsburgh sports venues, taking selfies at various bridges and publicly insulting prominent Pittsburgh sports figures,” Pitt Police said in a crime alert that one of the tasks was to “scare someone.”

Driving to another state to scare someone, among other scavenger hunt tasks, is in poor taste and a bizarre choice. But a group of men choosing to chase after a lone woman at 2:30 a.m. shows an absolutely terrifying lack of judgment.

Most, if not all, women are lectured at some point by parents, teachers and others about the dangers they face just being women. We’re taught that walking alone, walking at night and just generally minding our own business are enough to attract horrible threats like assault and kidnapping. It’s the unfortunate reality of the world we live in.

The Denison students’ ignorance of the fear many women carry with them wherever they go — whether it was willful ignorance or the result of never having to empathize with another’s position — had huge repercussions across campus.

Pitt Police had a larger presence on campus last week due to the back-to-back suspicious incidents. The 10A shuttle to upper campus and the Saferider shuttle service were out more often. Some students opted to use transportation companies like Uber when they were out late, or they relied on others to give them rides. Rumors and speculation circulated on social media and around campus about possible kidnappings. All of these things cost the University and students money and played into women’s fears.

The Denison students have been banned from all University of Pittsburgh property. It’s just as well, because anyone who poses that kind of a threat to our students — real or as a part of a prank — isn’t welcome here.