The Problem with Tuesday

September 20, 2019

I thought that last year’s groundhog-gunshot scare would have prompted Public Safety to find a better system to educate the campus on how to stay safe during campus emergencies. Whether or not you agreed that the Madison Police Department’s inability to let Public Safety alert us before they fired shots on campus qualified as an emergency, you at least recognized that the lack of communication was concerning. But here we are, months later, and still the communication between administration, campus safety, staff and students is faltering. 


What went wrong during the investigation? For starters, the words “shelter in place” won the prize for receiving the most confused, panicked expressions. So many staff members, professors and even students were utterly lost at what this meant for them and how to react. It may sound self-explanatory, but think about this: if you didn’t attend public school K-12 and weren’t mandated by the state to do emergency drills once a month, or if you haven’t been in a public school post-Columbine, the term “shelter in place” probably confused the hell out of you. Those terms might be on Drew University’s website, but if we aren’t putting them to practice, if we aren’t having at least one shelter in place drill a year, then we cannot expect everyone to understand these emergency protocols. 




Let’s not forget about the majority of students that were wandering around campus with no idea a shelter in place was even happening. So, SO, many people are not signed up for emergency alerts. Why? Because, since it is not required, people don’t sign up for the alerts. Usually, in the event of a campus closure, campus-wide emails are sent out. Which is what everyone expected Tuesday. Which is why we had people going to Peet’s to get coffee during a campus shelter in place. 


Should we also talk about the people who were misinformed and thought there was an active shooter? Or the international students who had no idea what was going on? Or the professors who left students in the middle of the shelter in place because they didn’t think it was a big deal? 


I understand Tuesday might have not been a “real emergency,” just as the shooting of the groundhog on campus last year wasn’t a “real emergency,” but I am upset with the way communication between administration and Public Safety to staff and students is still lacking and has become an increasing trend. Both the administration and Public Safety need to decide on whose responsibility it is to educate Drew’s public on emergency protocols and they need to initiate a better way to do it. 


Don’t just tell me my campus is “safe,” because Virginia Tech thought it was safe. Parkland thought it was safe. Columbine thought it was safe. We live in an era where the word “gun” indicates that something gut-wrenchingly catastrophic will follow it. Show me how to be prepared. Show me how my campus is prepared. Lead a seminar on how to be prepared during emergency situations. Run a shelter in place drill. Find a new emergency alert system. Words no longer assure our generation. Only action and only preparedness are how we can be reassured in emergency situations.


Sydney is a junior English major.

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