With school shootings such as Parkland and Central Michigan creating headlines recently, The University of Rhode Island has been abuzz with discussions on how to improve campus safety.
The Department of Public Safety is offering four community training sessions on active shooter response on March 5, and March 12, at 10 a.m. and March 7, and March 14, at 2 p.m. All sessions are free and open to pre-registered faculty, staff and students. The March 5, and 7, sessions are located in Memorial Union Room 360 while the March 12, and 14, sessions are located in Atrium 1 of Memorial Union.
The course, titled the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE), provides strategies on how to survive an active shooter event. The course emphasizes a strategy called Avoid, Deny, Defend (ADD). The strategy arose as a response to the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
“One of the after actions of Virginia [Tech Shooting] was ‘let’s avoid the situation, deny entry, or defend.’ That’s the fight part of it,” said Major Michael Jagoda when asked to explain ADD.
When asked why running was prioritized over lockdown, Jagoda said “We don’t really give ourselves an opportunity for hiding. We want to try create seconds. If you can run, you gain some seconds so we can get first responders.”
The Department of Public Safety’s Office of Emergency Management webpage offers a video providing additional information on what to do during a threat on campus. However, Jagoda said the video uses the previous model, Run, Hide, Fight, and will be updated to include ADD and other new safety procedures soon.
According to Jagoda, the Police Department has been planning active shooter training before the Parkland shooting.
“We’ve taken a proactive approach not only in the way our officers respond to a critical incident, but also in training our community members,” he said. “This is not a reactive because recent events or anything like that. I always tell my officers I want our department to set the standard.”
Jagoda feels that the CRASE course can help students be prepared for an active shooter situation in regardless of environment.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s the opportunity to have another tool on your tool belt so you could respond promptly to an incident like this,” he said. “Not just here on campus, but your everyday, going about normal lives.”
Meredith Haas, digital media manager for the Narragansett Bay Campus, was one staff member that attended a CRASE course. She said the course consisted of safety advice and situation awareness that could help civilians survive a situation that wasn’t necessarily in a school.
Haas was surprised at some of the suggestions, but ultimately felt that attending the course prepared her for a potential emergency situation.
“One of the sergeants commented ‘jump out a window’ because breaking bones is not a bad thing if it means you survive,” she said.
Haas also appreciated the self-defense strategies mentioned in the course.
“I think it helped you be aware of where you are, even if you thought it was safe, and to defend yourself,” she said. “If you’re in that situation you have the right to act and defend yourself.”
Several departments across campus asked the Department of Public Safety for training. One such department is the Academic Enhancement Center.
Skye H. Mendes, assistant director of the AEC, said that she has faced questions from students on how to respond to an active shooter in the AEC’s home in Roosevelt Hall.
“After the Parkland shooting, some students mentioned in passing ‘jeez, I don’t know what our plan would be if we had a situation like that,’” she said. “Then it kind of extrapolated from there to ‘I don’t know what I would do in most emergency situations.’”
Mendes said that the AEC sent an email to tutors informing them of which rooms in Roosevelt had locks that could be used during an active shooter situation.
“I reminded them in the email that we conveniently happen to have opaque, locking doors on our floor in case they ever needed it,” she said.
Mendes said that having good relationships between students and staff is key. She hopes that students are comfortable enough to tell her or other staff if they see any suspicious activity. Mendes also contacted the Department of Public Safety for training in how to respond to emergencies including but not limited to gun violence.
“Public safety was very responsive for us asking for training and I’m looking forward to seeing what that entails and I’m just glad to offer that to my students to give them peace of mind,” said Mendes. “I’m hoping this is information they will never need.”
Other members of the on-campus community think that the key to decreasing gun violence is by reaching the root of the issue: the abundance of violence in our culture.
“We’re a nation that believes in violence,” said Paul Bueno De Mesquita, psychology professor and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies. “We believe violence is a solution. Whether that is in our history of wars our other international conflicts, or conflicts in our own country, we think that overwhelming force is the solution.”
According to Bueno De Mesquita, violence isn’t always limited to a physical act such as shooting a gun, but also includes the acceptance of such injustices happening.
“Sometimes it’s the passiveness of doing nothing. Like with Parkland, we can either stand against this in a way that promotes peaceful solutions and nonviolence or we can stand by and in a way be very passively tolerating and accepting these violent acts,” said Bueno De Mesquita.
Instead of ignoring injustices or combating them with violence, Bueno De Mesquita suggests a democratic approach by contacting representatives and peacefully protesting.
“If we want to live in a more peaceful society, we have to take action,” he said. “This goes back to nonviolence. Remember, Gandhi established an entire nation out of British rule and never fired a gun.”
The state of Rhode Island is also working to combat gun violence. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently signed an executive order establishing a “red-flag” policy that prevents individuals who pose a danger from purchasing guns. In addition, the Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a bill that would ban civilian possession of assault weapons.