It’s throwback week and I actually have a distinct memory of a significant current event that occurred almost exactly 20 years ago, during my first year of college. Oct. 3, 1995 was the day the O.J. Simpson not guilty verdict was announced. I didn’t watch much of the trial, but many students even skipped class to watch. The afternoon the announcement was made, I was on my way to calculus class, the one my friend, Mark, was taking with me. As I walked down my hallway, I heard cheering and peeked at the TV through an open door and could see the courtroom scene. It was a warm sunny day and most of the windows were open in the dorms, so on my way up Mort Hill, there was cheering coming out the open windows and many African American students were celebrating and shouting, “Not guilty!”
So now I think about what you’ll remember from your first semester in college and think of the shooting that occurred last Friday in Oregon. It’s a very different world we live in today. My freshmen year of college, school shootings happened in Pearl Jam videos, not the news. The Columbine shooting happened the spring I graduated from college. When the Virginia Tech massacre occurred, I was fresh out of grad school and in my first year of teaching. My hope for you is that when you look back 20 years from now and remember this time, this senseless killing will be a thing of the past.
In a faculty meeting today we were discussing what we could do to protect ourselves and our students, if faced with a similar situation, and how could we keep violence off our campus. You’re probably thinking similar thoughts. We cannot live in fear, but we must be as prepared as possible, to have a plan and to think about what if. My advice to you and your classmates is to stay alert, pay attention, and stick together. Say something if you hear something, read something, or see something suspicious. Bring up the issue in class and ask your professors and administrators, if there is a plan. If your school has an emergency alert system, sign up for it. If there are emergency practices and drills, be sure to participate in them. If there are no plans or practice drills, demand them. Student voices will be heard, especially if there are many.
There are many schools of thought about what to do, if something goes down, but I know what I’d do. If I could get out, I would, and then I’d run, I’d run like hell and just keep running. If I couldn’t get out, I’d lock the door or barricade it as best as I could and then hide, but not before grabbing up anything I could throw or swing to protect myself and my students.
I have one last piece of advice for today. If you have classes with any military veterans, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get to know them. Start by thanking them for their service.
I hope that you’ll never actually need any of this advice.
Be smart and stay safe,