It was a Monday morning in April and shots were fired at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Minutes later, the police responded to emergency phone calls about an active shooter on campus.
Law enforcement attempted to enter the engineering building that the gunman had chained the doors shut. Officers broke through the main entrance where gunshots were heard on the second floor. As soon as the police arrived on the floor, the gunshots stopped.
The gunman, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, was dead. In total, 32 students and faculty died in the massacre.
Shootings like the one on the Virginia Tech campus eight years ago and the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino are more pronounced than ever. Despite this, some professors and students believe there is a lack of communication between the administration and different campus rules about active shooting preparation.
“The one shooting that got my attention the most was the one that happened at Virginia Tech and that wasn’t very long ago,” statistics professor Heather Smith said. “The student body at Virginia Tech is not dissimilar than the student body at Cal Poly, and so that really did hit home. Something like this could happen at Cal Poly.”
Architectural engineering freshman Kaylee Arthur said she doesn’t think the university’s administration is relaying information about campus shootings to students.
“It’s frustrating because I didn’t hear about the shooting on that community college campus in Oregon from administration,” Arthur said. “I heard about it later from friends who saw it on Twitter. The administration sent out nothing regarding the shooting and it frightens me.”
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong did send an email out to staff and students about campus safety approximately two weeks a shooter killed 10 people, including himself, at an Oregon community college.
However, animal science freshman Aldo Marquez said he saw the email as a defensive move by the administration.
“They were probably getting lots of complaints or questions about Cal Poly’s safety,” Marquez said. “Personally, I think they are trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.”
According to a study conducted between 2000 and 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nearly 25 percent of the 160 mass shootings occurred at educational institutions.
Due to the amount of incidents that have occurred at schools, University Police Department (UPD) presented an active shooter preparation training on Jan. 14, aimed toward faculty, which was open to all students as well. UPD Chief George Hughes said the presentation given at Cal Poly was the same that is given to all California State Universities (CSU).
“I am concerned. It seems like colleges are a target and I really want to know what to do,” aerospace engineering lecturer Bruce Wright said. “It worries me that we can’t lock our classrooms from the inside. We can’t keep people out.”
Wright said he had not heard of an active shooter presentation in the last 16 years.
However, Hughes said he has held active shooter presentations each quarter for the last three years.
According to journalism assistant professor Dan Eller, communication is lacking between faculty and administration about these presentations.
“An email went out to begin with and it had the wrong time on it. So, I am a professor and I planned to bring 21 students with me as part of my class when the email read from 10 to 11 in the morning,” Eller said. “I did notice coming into Chumash Auditorium that the message board above the door was incorrect. It said it was from 1 to 3. It may have discouraged some people from coming.”
Professors that have been at Cal Poly for more than a decade, such as Smith, said they have not seen a change in the way emergency preparedness information is communicated to the faculty. Smith said the flaws in the current emergency management plan should be mandated for teachers to review.
“As far as I know, we don’t have mandated training at all for an active shooter type of emergency,” Smith said. “The faculty are asked to participate in training in different kinds of emergencies on campus. There are videos we look at with questions we have to answer, but active shooter is not one of those. It’s mostly issues of natural disasters.”
Hughes said active shooting preparation courses are hard to coordinate with all administration and faculty, and are not yet mandatory.
“Students, faculty and the administration really need to do something active involving training,” Smith said. “I think we have to recognize we live in an age where we can’t not deal with this.”