Campus security reacts to shootings


Campus security reacts to shootings


Saint Mary's reviews security protocols, does not anticipate changes changes

Katie Kohler

Issue date: 4/19/07 Section: News

Saint Mary's students may feel safe on their quiet residential Indiana campus, but until Monday, students in Blacksburg, Va., felt the same way. In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, members of the Saint Mary's community have began asking, "Are we safe?"

College President Carol Ann Mooney addressed those concerns in an e-mail to students Wednesday, asking them to take steps to protect each other.

"Saint Mary's is a secure place, but that does not mean we have been lulled into complacency," she said in the e-mail. "We must remember that college safety and security is everyone's responsibility."

In an e-mail Tuesday, Vice President of Student Affairs Karen Johnson told students to keep their eyes open and report any suspicious activity on campus - especially near the residence halls.

"Don't let people 'tailgate' into the residence halls behind you," Johnson said. "If anyone tries to do so, report them to the desk attendant or College Security."

Current emergency protocol

While the events at Virginia Tech are making colleges across the nation question their current safety procedures, Saint Mary's is simply working to improve the security protocols in place.

Saint Mary's is trying to improve the existing standard operating procedure in the event of a gun crime or shooting on campus, said Saint Mary's Director of Security David Gariepy.

But rather than a reaction to Monday's Virginia Tech bloodbath, Johnson said these upgrades are always on the administration's agenda.

"This is not something we just started working on," she said. "Security is always of utmost importance, and so we are always working on making it better."

The administration and members of a security planning committee, she said, are currently reviewing a new duty manual.

The Saint Mary's Security Web site has a detailed emergency response plan for chemical or biological threats and natural disasters, keeping the stipulations of Homeland Security. There is no specific mention, however, of gun crime protocols.

In any emergency, students can expect notification via e-mail, telephone and direct contact, according to the Web site.

The site also encourages students to have emergency supplies pre-packed in case of an evacuation and take shelter in the basement of Regina Hall.

"It is not recommended you remain in your room or office, nor should you leave the campus. Assistance will be provided for you there," the Web site reads.

As helpful these tips may be, Gariepy said each situation is different and unpredictable.

"Everything pertains to a particular situation. Going by the book doesn't always cut it," he said. "Students should always be aware."

The problem, though, is that most students are not keeping an eye out for suspicious activities, and even if they did, they might simply panic, sophomore Kristen Anderson said.

"If there was a shooting, a bomb threat, a rapist on campus, anything really, I would have no idea how to react, and I know many students feel the same way," she said.

Sophomore Perri Hamma felt the same, saying she was still shaking from hearing about the Virginia Tech massacre and wouldn't know how to react in a similar situation.

"I honestly don't have any idea about our emergency procedures," Hamma said. "If something bad happened, I don't think I'd know what to do."

Accessing residence halls

Of the four residence halls on Saint Mary's campus, only one - McCandless Hall - has an ID card swipe access system in place at the front door. LeMans and Regina Hall lobbies are open, but visitors must swipe an ID card to go up to the rooms. Holy Cross Hall does not require swiping at all, but Johnson said she doesn't think students in the residence hall are more exposed for this reason.

"I don't think there is any greater risk at Holy Cross than other dorms that require swiping," Johnson said. "If somebody really wants to get into any building, they will figure it out."

Johnson gave residents - not ID card capabilities -the responsibility of keeping the halls clear of strangers.

"The dorm is only as safe as the people that live there make it," she said.


In the event of a lockdown, Saint Mary's will "start at the top," Gariepy said. The president will make the judgment call through recommendations from security officials.

A lockdown, however, may not be the safest option.

"Lockdown isn't always a good option. It is determined by the particular event we are dealing with and may cause more harm than good," Gariepy said. "In some situations, keeping people where they are is good. In others, it could be dangerous."

While heightened security is assumed during emergency situations, the security Web site said that in case of an evacuation of Regina, all swipe-card systems would be deactivated "for easy access."

Johnson also said a campus lockdown is not necessarily the first choice.

"It really depends on if we can safely evaluate if it is safer to stay in your rooms or go some place safer," she said. "At Virginia Tech, it was decided it was safer to stay in the dorms. It really depends."

Communication and cooperation

In the case of Monday's massacre, authorities are still investigating Virginia Tech's response rate and implementation of its protocols. While Saint Mary's is willing to employ every method of communication to alert students, Gariepy said notifying students too early could also be dangerous.

"It is hard to put out a notification with something like a shooting unless we really and truly know what we're dealing with," he said. "If we don't know the facts, we could potentially alarm students when we don't have to."

Once the situation has been identified, however, Gariepy said the College would alert students in person, through e-mails, flyers and even an emergency toll-free number with regularly updated messages about the status of the emergency. This number is aimed more at parents, he said.

From there, the College notifies other agencies, including the St. Joseph County Police Department and Notre Dame Security/Police, to assist with the handling of the situation, Gariepy said. He said he is confident that these collaborations, combined with a calm and collected approach, will yield the best possible results for students.

"We [campus security] will stick to protocol at the present time," Gariepy said. "We always talk to the staff after events like this to keep it fresh in our minds, but, for the most part, we are going to stay consistent with our policies."


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Katie Kohler, “Campus security reacts to shootings,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,