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Navigating through the campus shooting crisis

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By Lindsey Riback
10/20/15


In the midst of the three recent school shootings, University at Albany students, faculty and parents are left wondering what precautions the university is taking to prevent school shootings on campus and what the protocol is in case this ever becomes a harsh reality for the University at Albany community.

Over the span of nine days, Oct. 1 to Oct. 9, the nation lost 12 students to gun violence. On Oct. 1, Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon killing 10 students and injuring 20. Just eight days later, two more college students were killed. Shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 9 an altercation between two groups of students outside a Northern Arizona University residence hall left one dead and three more in the hospital. Later that day, Texas Southern University lost a student to gun violence following a dispute outside a campus dormitory.

Aran Mull, Deputy Chief of the UAlbany Police Department, said that campus shootings have a “profound impact on community and national psyche,” which is why prevention is key.

UPD is credited with creating the first New York State Division of Criminal Justice certified active shooter response training course. Through this course and basic training, UPD officers are taught to handle incidents that include the possession of a gun, bomb or knife. UPD looks at situations involving an active shooter and campus security on a national level, implementing these observations into their training programs to make them more effective.

Mull said that prevention is not just the job of UPD, but that of the community as well. He encourages students to reach out to UAlbany CARE Services if they know someone who they believe may need help. University employees are provided with a link on their MYUAlbany account that has resources to help students who are perceived to be in crisis.

“You’re helping someone from going down that road to deconstruction,” Mull said. “Make it so we don’t have to call about an active shooter, make a call when you notice someone needs help.”

The UPD website contains resources for students and faculty on education, prevention, and mitigation. The UAlbany community can go to http://police.albany.edu/AShooter.shtml to find the “Run, Hide, Fight” video and PDF versions of the “Reporting and Resource Guide” and “Active Shooter Poster.” All three detail what to do if an active shooter is on campus. The “Reporting and Resource Guide” lists warning signs for students who may need help which range from a decline in grades and bizarre content in course work to exaggerated personality traits, verbal abuse and threatening behavior.

In the event of an active shooter, individuals should know the entrances and exits in their classrooms and get out of there as quickly as possible.

“Don’t just run, run to safety,” Mull said, reminding students that if an incident like this occurs cell phone signals may be down due to overuse, so don’t forget about the blue lights and red phones that are scattered across campus.

UAlbany has only encountered one incident of an active shooter on campus since its creation in 1844. On Dec. 14, 1994 Ralph Tortorici, a 26-year-old psychology student, entered a History of Ancient Greece class armed with a .270-caliber Remington rifle according to The New York Times article from Dec. 15, 1994, titled “Gunman Terrorizes Students in Campus Siege.”

Tortorici held 35 students and Prof. Hans Pohlsander hostage for over two and a half hours, while police attempted to negotiate with him from outside the classroom. It was the efforts of two students, one who knocked the rifle out of Tortorici’s hand and the other who was able to back him against a wall, that allowed police to arrest Tortorici and efficiently secure the area.
In wake of the recent school shootings, UAlbany’s Student Association plans to host Protect YOU Albany, according to Emma Schwab, a senior who is head of the Student Assembly’s Civic Action committee. There will be a memorial for the recent lives lost and UPD will be there to provide information on campus safety and gun violence. A date has not yet been set, but it will be held by the small fountain in front of the Campus Center.

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