HomeHigher EducationHigher Education ResourcesHow colleges are trying to prevent the next mass shooting

How colleges are trying to prevent the next mass shooting

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Since a mass shooting at Michigan State University killed three students and injured five others earlier this year, the university has been working to protect students, faculty and staff from ever enduring another attack. 

In the weeks after the Feb. 13 shooting, the university held a series of campus safety town halls with members of the community about improvements they wanted to see, said Dana Whyte, a spokesperson for the Michigan State Department of Police and Public Safety. 

Following those sessions, the university’s president, chief of police and vice president of public safety announced four campus safety changes in early March, Whyte said. They included beefing up security and offering active violence incident training to all students, she said. 

“We want to make sure that we’re covering all areas and giving our community as many resources as possible,” said Whyte.

Michigan State is one of many colleges trying to secure their campuses and train students to respond to active shooter incidents in the hopes of preventing a mass shooting. As of April 25, there had been at least 173 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive defines mass shootings as incidents in which at least four victims were shot.

It’s sad to say that everybody’s left on their own to figure this out, because our policymakers have totally failed us.

Pedro Noguera

Dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Education

But there is no higher ed policy or strategy that can eliminate the possibility of a mass shooting, said Pedro Noguera, dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Education. And a lack of action by federal policymakers on gun control has left college leaders to develop strategies on their own, he said. 

A number of colleges have responded to the nation’s mass shooting epidemic by making their campuses much less accessible to the public, said Noguera, “which is unfortunate, because universities are public resources.” 

School mass shooting experts say colleges could train campus communities to identify potential threats and better respond to mass violence events. However, such measures will still not guarantee anyone’s safety, Noguera said. 

“It’s sad to say that everybody’s left on their own to figure this out, because our policymakers have totally failed us,” said Noguera. “Truthfully, there’s not a lot we can do.”

The shooter could be a student, employee or, like at Michigan State, it could be someone outside the campus community, he said. And, ultimately, “there are simply too many dangerous people with guns.”

Boosting security, warning students

Over the past 20 years, many colleges and universities have gotten more sophisticated with reconnaissance, response and communication protocols, according to Ron Avi Astor, social welfare professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Astor, who studies school violence, also said colleges are working with law enforcement more efficiently

Michigan State’s new safety measures are one example of change implemented by universities in recent years. 

Students, faculty and staff now need to use their school ID card to enter buildings between 6 pm and 7:30 am on weekdays and at all hours on weekends, said Whyte. Previously, all academic buildings were open while classes were in session.

We don’t want to retraumatize our community after the events that we just went through.

Dana Whyte

Spokesperson for the Michigan State Department of Police and Public Safety

The university has also begun outfitting 1,300 classrooms with a new lock system, allowing instructors to secure their doors while still providing access to law enforcement and first responders. And the university plans to add to the more than 2,000 security cameras on campus to capture areas where “there could be a potential room for improvement,” Whyte said. 

At the University of Virginia — where three school football players were killed and two others wounded by a gunman on a university charter bus in November returning to campus — security is also being heightened. 

The university is adding public safety resources and adjusting how it manages threat-assessment processes and administers no-trespass orders, according to a March website post

University officials plan to meet regularly with state and local officials to review crime data and weigh other initiatives that promote “a safe, healthy living and learning environment, including community access to mental health and youth engagement resources,” the post stated. 

Many colleges have also implemented active shooter alert systems for their campus communities. 

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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