Are USD faculty prepared for an on-campus shooting?

Sarah Brewington | News Editor | The USD Vista


A map depicting the locations of mass shootings with four or more casualties since January 2015

After the tragic events in Oregon, Texas, and Arizona, on-campus shootings seem to be a common occurrence. This leaves campuses wondering if students feel safe. But professors come into question as well.

At the University of San Diego, mandatory active shooter training is a reality for some community members.

Carmen Vazquez, vice president of student affairs, explained that new employees are required to receive active shooter training.

“Currently, all new faculty and staff receive Active Shooter training taught by the Department of Public Safety [DPS],” Vazquez said. New staff employees have been receiving Active Shooter training for several years.”

While Vazquez confirmed that there is a training, not all USD faculty have undergone the training.

USD professor of theology and religious studies, Eveyln Kirkley, explained that in the event of an active shooter situation she would be caught off guard.

“I’m not sure what the proper protocol is in this situation,” Kirkley said. “So no, I probably don’t know what to do, I’m embarrassed to say.”

In pondering what she would do, Kirkley explained a few measures she might take if such a situation were to occur.

“If the shooter was outside my classroom, I would close the door, lock it if I could, and ask everyone to lay on the floor under tables/desks,” Kirkley said. “If the shooter was in my classroom, I like to think that I would act bravely to protect my students from harm, but I don’t know what I would actually do.”

Graphic courtesy of succo/Pixabay

Graphic courtesy of succo/Pixabay

Public Safety explained in an article published in last week’s USD Vista that students and teachers are advised to prepare differently in the event of a shooter. While Kirkley was correct in locking the door, P-Safe advises a different approach in regards to hiding.

Chief Larry Barnett advises staying calm in addition to following through with some protective procedures.

“Hide/shelter in place lock door/s, if they cannot lock the door they will need to barricade the door with furniture or whatever they can find and turn off the lights, or take out the shooter if they have no other option,” Barnett said.

When hiding in a classroom, students are advised to barricade themselves behind the desks and to spread out so that the shooter cannot target everyone at once.

Kirkley explained that although she has not received training, it does not mean it has never been offered.

“I haven’t received training for this kind of situation, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been offered at USD,” Kirkley said. “Workshops or trainings may have been held, and I missed them, which is my bad.”

While some professors cannot recall or did not undergo the training, Sarah Zakaria, the associate director of alumni relations recalls the active shooter training.

“It was a video presentation that I watched on my desktop computer,” Zakaria said.

After the training, Zakaria is grateful for the training but hopes she will never have to apply what she learned.

“I feel more prepared than if I had not taken the training,” Zakaria said. “I hope I never have to be in that kind of situation. Due to the press about these issues on other school campuses, I was grateful for the training.”

While Zakaria remembers other faculty did not undergo the training. Similar to Kirkley, sociology professor Thomas Reifer, does not know what to do in an active shooter situation.

“I wouldn’t say I know what to do; but I know, to some extent, the different recommendations of what to do,” Reifer said. “There was some discussion about training but I don’t think that it ever happened.”

Eddie Colanter a professor in the philosophy department finds a discrepancy between faculty that have received training, and faculty that have not.

“It is my experience that most teachers do not undergo this type of training,” Colanter said. “In fact, I can only think of one who I know has been trained. This of course excludes those educators who have already served in law enforcement or the military.”

Colanter explained that while he has not received formal training, he makes efforts to be prepared.

“I am familiar with a basic understanding of an active shooter, i.e., that they are often mentally unstable and intend to cause chaos and mass carnage,” Colanter said. “But I have not been formally trained or educated in responding to an active shooter situation. However, it is something that I have reflected on for almost ten years as an educator. But most of my reflections pertain to a hypothetical active shooter entering the classroom, and not the campus in general.”

Colanter looks to outside sources to educate himself on active shooter training.

“Partly because of this recent incident in Oregon, I am currently looking into formal training and education,” Colanter said. “In my research there are several private and public organizations that offer this type of training.”

Despite the fact that Colanter has not received training, he still has an idea of what he would do in the event of such a situation.

“I was raised to always be familiar with my surroundings,” Colanter said. “This includes being aware of all exits, entrances, suspicious activity or behavior etc. With respect to an active shooter, some of my research advises to consider the three E’s: Evacuate, Evade, or Engage. These three of course depend on the circumstances which are diverse and numerous.”

While some professors have not considered the possibility of an active shooter, Colanter explains that he has mused on the possibility of an active shooter event.

“One thing that I have already considered as a teacher, over and over again, is what would I do if an active shooter entered one of my classes,” Colanter said. “I think and feel that if that unfortunate encounter arose, it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to protect the students. Thus, in that circumstance, if it deemed necessary (i.e., evacuate or evade are not options), I would immediately rush (engage) the active shooter and hope and pray for a good outcome. Some experts agree that this might be the only viable option in some cases.”

Chief Barnett recently distributed an email earlier this week reminding students of the safety procedures. Active shooter training was mentioned in his statement.

“I want to strongly encourage everyone to take a few additional minutes and thoroughly familiarize yourself with all of our other important campus emergency preparedness information […] Contained within the emergency preparedness link is specific information regarding what to do in the event of an Active Shooter situation,” Barnett said. “Please take the time to also review the training video for Active Shooter situations located [on the school website].”

While USD is still navigating the discussion around active shooter training, DPS encourages USD community members to visit the safety website and educate themselves on how to best address active shooter situations.