Safety at forefront as college reacts to killings

Tragedy struck Northern Illinois University last week, where yet another highly publicized school shooting took place. The events have once again forced college students and administrators at Geneseo and across the country to consider the issue of campus safety.

On Feb. 14, 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak entered a lecture hall at NIU and indiscriminately shot 22 people; Six were killed, including Kazmierczak. The gunman was a former sociology graduate student at NIU.

Two days after the shooting, President Christopher Dahl sent an e-mail to the Geneseo community emphasizing the college's commitment to emergency preparedness and encouraging anyone affected by the tragedy to seek the resources of counseling services.

"As a college community," the statement read, "we too grieve [NIU's] loss and share in the shock of the tragedy…the NIU tragedy reinforces our awareness that it is our responsibility to be prepared."

Geneseo students, in general, expressed satisfaction with the college's efforts to create a safe environment for students.

"As long as people feel safe, [the administration] doesn't have to do anything more," said junior Kohdai Kohzaki.

Freshman Angela Ridley said that she feels safe given that Geneseo is a smaller college than NIU and Virginia Tech, both of which have enrollments of over 25,000.

Still, many feel the threat of a shooting can never be totally dismissed.

"I guess we can never know if we're safe," said junior Kathy Blankenship.

Senior Emily Halsey pointed out that NIU had, "similar security measures to ours."

Freshman Katherine Rosa said she feels the bigger problem is in the way students treat one another.

"If people feel uncomfortable or attacked, that's what triggers [shootings]," she said.

Other students had stronger ideas about security.

"I would feel a lot safer if the college allowed an open arms policy," said junior Jeffrey Oswald, explaining that students could then defend themselves if faced with a killer.

Geneseo has taken a number of measures to promote safety on campus since the April 2007 Virginia Tech incident, when 32 people were killed and scores were injured by Seung-Hui Cho, a student at the school. Such measures include the implementation of the NY-Alert system and specialized training for University Police forces.

Additionally, after the Virginia Tech incident, the decision was made to allow University Police to carry guns at all times.

Also, beginning this month, faculty members will be invited to a series of workshops designed to teach professors how to recognize distressed students in their classes and then take appropriate intervention measures. The one-hour workshops will each accommodate about 25 faculty members.