Prevalent school shootings lead college to assess safety programs, students question their effectiveness

University Police Department Interim Inspector Scott Ewanow (pictured left) and UPD Lieutenant Matthew Austin (pictured right) hosted an active shooter preparedness session on Wednesday March 28 in the MacVittie College Union Hunt Room. The session is one of a group of measures that the college has tried to ready the campus for an endangering event (Catherine White/Arts & Entertainment Editor)

Following a series of mass shootings across the country, some educational institutions have implemented additional measures to prepare for potential threats. Geneseo has decided not to perform  lockdown drills, instead prioritizing other initiatives.

The rationale for not holding any sort of lockdown drills stems from the differences between the settings of a high school and a college campus, according to Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio.

“The biggest things that I talked about with Chief of University Police Thomas Kilcullen was just the major difference between a college campus, which is like a little city, and a high school or a middle school,” Bonfiglio said. 

“Lockdowns work when you have one building that you can secure the parameters of, keeping people away from the building and keeping people in the building who are already in the building. That’s the best-case scenario for a lockdown,” Bonfiglio said.

Additionally, Bonfiglio does not find lockdown drills to be effective or necessary in a place as statistically safe as a college campus. 

“There’s no data that shows that [lockdown drills have] been effective for any school at all,” Bonfiglio said. “There is data that shows that college campuses are among the safest places in the world. There is data that backs up that the risk [on college campuses] is fairly low.”

Instead of lockdown drills, Geneseo has shifted focus to other safety measures geared to increase campus safety, such as the Geneseo Guardian app, the movement to increase the so-called “big voice system” to a giant voice system and active shooter preparedness training sessions, according to Bonfiglio.

These trainings involve watching a video that has been designed specifically for school shooting scenarios and then attending a lecture and question and answer session held by one of Geneseo’s police officers, according to Bonfiglio.

The last active shooter training session took place on Wednesday March 28 in the MacVittie College Union Hunt Room and was taught by UPD Interim Inspector Scott Ewanow and UPD Lieutenant Matthew Austin. In the trainings, Ewanow and Austin said that students should choose to “run, hide or fight” in an active shooter situation and students should remain cognizant of the warning signs for a potential shooter.

“Most importantly, if you see something [suspicious], say something,” Austin said.

Other colleges like Geneseo have similarly grappled with whether to hold drills to prepare students for potential shooters. 

Monroe Community College’s campus in Brighton mistakenly issued a lockdown notification, without immediatley noting that it was a drill, causing the campus to become confused and alarmed, according to an article from the Democrat & Chronicle.

 SUNY New Paltz held its own active shooter drill in October 2017, according to an article from the New Paltz Oracle. During the active shooter preparedness sesssion, UPD showed video from the New Paltz drill. 

Some Geneseo students who are concerned about school shootings have expressed dissatisfaction with the college’s safety initiatives.

Theater major junior Lila Klatz, who took part in the nationwide school walkout on Feb. 21 in response to the prevalence of high school shootings, said that this training should be present at new student orientation. Klatz said students likely do not know about the training programs the college offers and also questioned the rationale behind the lack of lockdown drills.

“I think that while it may not be worthwhile to have a campus wide lockdown, there should still be a precautionary thing if something along those lines ever did occur. Every building should be immediately locked,” Klatz said. “We have fire drills in every single building. A lockdown drill should be just as adequate.”

Like Klatz, mathematics and English literature double major freshman Rachel McLauchlin and pre-business administration major sophomore Katherine Peter said that there is need for active shooter preparedness training to take place during freshman orientation. 

McLauchlin and Peter both attended the March for Our Lives rally in Rochester on Saturday March 24, and said that Geneseo should consider implementing new policies regarding communication in case a shooting should occur. 

“I understand not doing the drills, but I’d like to have some way of knowing a plan and being notified as to what we should be doing. I feel like I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation, and we were never really told as far as I can remember,” Peter said. “It’s not that their plans that are bad, it’s just the fact that no one knows about them.”

Locations across the country, including Geneseo, could implement more policies to increase a sense of safety, McLauchlin said. 

“Our active shooter protocol [at my job] is also the ‘run, fight, hide,’ which does not give me really any feeling of security because it’s not really a plan,” McLauchlin said. “None of those are really plans. They are sort of like last ditch efforts, which I know is kind of the whole point, but I’d like to see [specific] policy.”