Clowns on Campus: No Laughing Matter

By Haley Burnside, Staff Writer

This summer a scary new trend started sweeping the nation, and finally the creepy clowns have come to Riverdale.

On Oct. 3, Manhattan College public safety officers were alerted of a “creepy clown” sighting near West 238th Street and Greystone Avenue. David Erosa, the assistant director of public safety, says that a commuter student called to report the unarmed clown. Shortly after, Public Safety sent an email to students.

While the email warned students to be vigilant of these thrill-seekers, it emphasized that the threat of danger is no cause for panic. Juan Cerezo, the director of public safety, stated that the college has a protocol to follow in the event that a clown is spotted on campus.

Cerezo explained that even without weapons or direct verbal threats, these creepy clowns are breaking the law.

“The [New York State] Penal has laws against individuals disguising themselves thereby concealing their faces,” Cerezo said.

For the most part the police are not concerned. Officer Lumsden from the 50th Precinct does not feel the clowns are a threat.

“We’ll just treat them like people in costumes,” said Lumsden. “For me it’s like that’s New York. You see weird [stuff] like that every day.”

For several months, people throughout the United States have recently dressed up as “creepy clowns” and lurked in areas such as cemeteries, parking lots, and wooded areas.

In August, two people dressed as clowns were spotted alongside a stretch of woods in North Carolina. Upon investigation police found that the clowns were attempting to lure children into the woods.

The story of “creepy clowns” spread in the news and inspired imitators to dress up and walk around public places. Some of these clowns carry weapons to further the effect of the scare tactic. Others play the role of pranksters, aiming to cause panic without posing any threat of real harm.

The creepy clowns have been especially common on college campuses during the past two weeks. Pennsylvania State, Belmont, Kent State, University of Iowa, and York College have all had recent clown-related incidents.

The Penn State clown caused hysteria on its campus. The alert of the sighting was sent out to Penn State students. Despite no reports of students actually seeing the clown, riot of 500 undergraduates stomped around campus shouting obscene counter-threats toward the unseen clown. The riot made national headlines overnight.

Several other colleges across the nation have responded to clown sightings by going on lockdown or staging “clown hunts.” The excitement surrounding these riots and hunts may be motivating others to dress up and walk around public as clowns.

In the past month the term “creepy clown” has steadily trended on social media. Clown sighting twitter accounts show several videos, staged and unstaged, of clowns chasing people.

The hype is making the clowns seem like a much bigger threat than they are. For the most part the campus clowns are unarmed. Of those that do carry weapons, none have actually used them.

While some students enjoy the idea of clown hunts and the excitement of riots, most locals share similar attitudes with Lumsden toward the clown epidemic.

“We’re New Yorkers,” says freshman Katharine Scheid. “Creepy clowns aren’t a big deal to us.”

New Yorkers may feel immune to creepy clowns, but Public Safety stresses that these pranksters are to be reported and properly addressed. Also students are discouraged from dressing up as clowns for Halloween.

Until this trend ends, people should avoid wearing anything that resembles clown attire on a college campus.