Letter to the Editor

Jeffrey Morton

Fortunately for all, the armed gunman who robbed a FAU student and set off a campus-wide security crisis on November 29 did not harm anyone. The next time, we may not be so fortunate. College campus shootings across the nation have caused irreparable harm to victims, universities, and communities.

Text messages and automatic telephone calls went out to FAU students, faculty, and staff. The messages alerted us to the danger (an armed intruder), updated us on his possible movements (Palm Beach State College campus), and ultimately sounded the all clear.

FAU’s approach to campus security in the event of an armed intruder can be improved. Many classroom doors cannot be locked from the inside. Asking the heaviest students in class to sit up against the door, as happened in at least one classroom on November 29, is simply unacceptable. Faculty instruction on how to respond in the event of a campus emergency is necessary. How many faculty members know to turn off the lights in a classroom as an immediate safeguard? How many professors know how to respond to a threat inside the classroom? Last semester, a FAU student threatened to kill fellow students, an event that went viral on YouTube. Throughout the episode, the professor attempted to continue the lecture and did not evacuate the classroom, as standard safety protocol dictates. A reliable means of contacting campus security is needed in every classroom. While most everyone carries cell phones with them to class, there are buildings on campus where there is no cell phone reception.

Three basic steps should be taken by FAU to better secure its premises, students, faculty, and staff. Taking these steps will require money and effort, however, their implementation could literally save lives.

Step 1. Install deadbolt locks on the inside of every university classroom. This allows faculty to quickly secure the room.

Step 2. Install emergency call boxes in every classroom. Call boxes are installed in parking lots, by pressing a button a person can be connected immediately to campus police. Such devices could be used to call for medical assistance or to report the movement of an intruder.

Step 3. Require faculty and staff training on how to respond to campus security breaches. Other universities provide instructional DVDs posted on web links that provide clear, logical steps to be taken in response to security breaches on university campuses.

In 2003, three instructors were murdered by an armed intruder at the University of Arizona. In 2007, thirty students were killed at Virginia Tech by a single gunman. Acting now to better prepare our campus, its faculty and staff, to respond to security threats must be made the highest priority of the university in 2013.

Jeffrey Morton is a professor in the department of Political Science