In the almost 16 years since the Columbine High School massacre, school shootings have been on the rise in the United States. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech and killed 32 students and faculty members before killing himself. In 2012, Adam Lanza drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed 26 students and staff members and then committed suicide.
According to Everytown For Gun Safety, a website that studies and compiles U.S. school shootings, there have been 52 school shootings so far this year, with the most recent in Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, where 10 people were killed and seven were injured and Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University, both of which resulted in one death.
Quincy University has implemented two security measures to prevent shootings like these from happening on its campus.
Currently, key card readers are located on the outside doors and classroom doors in Francis Hall. When students aren’t moving in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends, the doors at Francis Hall are secure and cannot be opened by anyone except security. The doors are key card accessible in normal business hours, except for the main doors, which don’t require key card access.
Some students question why there is no key card access on the main doors.
“I still feel like people can wander around because even though they go through the main door, most people don’t question who you are, so if you’re of college age, people probably won’t even notice,” QU senior Christina Boernson said.
QU Director of Security Sam Lathrop said the doors don’t require key card access because people from outside the campus visit Francis Hall throughout the day. For example, people have meetings with President Gervasi and prospective students and their parents meet admission counselors and tour campus.
“We’re not Fort Knox. Our security is better than it was four years ago, but we are not Fort Knox, nor do I think we want to be,” Lathrop said.
Lathrop said the camera system has enhanced campus security in a couple of ways. Security guards can now see confrontations and disturbances on tape.
Almost every time the university builds or refurbishes, security is added. For example, a few spots at the football stadium require key card access and have cameras. The Security Department plans to continue to implement more security measures as it receives funding.
QU has never undergone a lockdown. However, under the key card system, Lathrop will soon be able to lock down Francis Hall and North Campus with the touch of a button.
If QU would undergo a lockdown, no one would be able to enter the buildings that are locked down. However, anyone could leave the buildings to get to safety.
There are three main approaches to respond to threats: run, hide and fight. Lathrop said if the danger is going on outside of a classroom that students are in, then students should hide. However, if students hear gunshots on the second floor, and they are on the first floor, they should run. He also said if a gunman is in the classroom, students can choose to be a victim or to fight.
“So when you have that run, hide, fight, if you go into lockdown, you have to be able to allow for all of those to happen, and I wouldn’t want the doors to be in a position where we couldn’t move them in either direction,” Lathrop said.
The Security Department uses a communication program to reach students and alert them of emergencies. With the touch of a button, the system sends out texts, voicemails and emails with all the information about on-campus emergencies. Students can register for the system by logging into Moodle, going to the Student Portal and selecting Emergency Notification. Students then fill in the information to receive the alerts. Students need to register for the alerts every school year because at the end of each year, all of the data is deleted.
Lathrop said student shooters never just snap and that there is time to prevent mass shootings from happening.
“What happens is there is ideation, which means the person starts thinking, ‘hey wouldn’t this be cool,’ there’s planning, ‘if that idea’s cool, what do I do to make it happen,’ there’s garnering the equipment that person needs, there might be a practice stage, and then there’s the actual event,” Lathrop said.
Lathrop wants students to report anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary to the Student Welfare Intervention and Facilitation Team, or SWIFT. There, students can report concerns not just for dangerous students, but also for students in academic peril or any student who is not mentally or physically healthy. To access SWIFT, students should go to QU’s home webpage, click on the Student Life Tab, and select SWIFT.
Lathrop trains faculty, staff and students who work for the university on emergency situations annually.
Lathrop also strongly believes that students need to be aware of their surroundings and take different routes to get to their destinations on campus.
Lathrop said the odds of a shooting taking place at QU are small but that that is probably exactly what people would have said about Sandy Hook the week before the shooting there
“So the lesson from that is when you do have those events, get your nose out of your cell phone, pull your ear buds out, be aware, be alert and report things that aren’t right,” Lathrop said. “It makes you be more aware of your environment, and that’s always a good thing.”
Contact Campus Security with any concerns at 217-228-5600.
**Originally published on October 27, 2015 in The Falcon, Volume 87, Issue 2
PDF of original version: GUNS ON CAMPUS
(Photo belongs to me.)