No mandatory active shooter training for faculty, staff, students
The University at Albany does not require professors and staff to go through active shooter training, a policy concerning to some members of the campus community after another deadly school shooting in Maryland last Tuesday.
“If there is an emergency, there’ll be some people who know what to do,” said Aran Mull, assistant chief of police for the University Police Department. “The rest we’re going to have to rely on them obeying police directions and other first responder directions.”
UPD offers voluntary training courses for students, faculty, or staff to learn what to do in an active shooter incident.
However, the classes are not taught regularly: those who wish to learn must first contact UPD or Community Standards to schedule a course time.
Mull said that UPD has held nine Citizen Response to an Active Shooter courses over the last year. He said they did not take attendance of who exactly was trained, nor do they have records of numbers of classes in earlier years.
University Communications included an advertisement for the courses on a ‘Today at UAlbany’ blast email to students and faculty on Feb. 20. Beyond this, the classes are advertised on UPD’s website.
Several professors interviewed were not aware that the university offered such training.
Education psychology professor Matthew LaFave said that though he appreciates the university’s counseling services as a valuable preventative measure for mass shootings, he wants to see reform.
“I don’t know if every person needs to go through the training,” said LaFave, “But I think that there are certain people if they have contact with students, they should definitely have to be part of that.”
Melissa Thorne, a studio art professor, said that she sees the value in training professors despite psychological reservations about turning college into a place where violence is expected.
“As faculty, I wish that I were better prepared so that I felt I were in a position to benefit my students in the worst-case scenario,” said Thorne.
At a tour of the Massry building Monday, the ASP asked SUNY Chancellor if the fact that some SUNY campuses like this one do not mandate active shooter training is concerning.
She said that she did not know this was the case, and that she would speak to UAlbany president Havidan Rodriguez about it.
Several professors also expressed concern that they would not be able to lock their classroom from the inside in case of an active shooter.
Some classrooms at UAlbany cannot be locked from the inside. University spokesman Jordan Carleo-Evangelist said Thursday that the university did not know how many can and cannot.
A Connecticut state group commissioned to study active shooter preparedness after the Sandy Hook attack recommended that all K-12 classroom doors be able to be locked from the inside, unlike the doors in the Newtown school at the time of the attack.
Among the UAlbany classrooms that cannot be locked from the inside is Lecture Center 5, where in 1994, Ralph Tortorici held an Ancient Greek class hostage with a rifle.
Mull said that in UPD’s voluntary training courses, they teach how to secure doors other ways, such as barricades and tying belts around mechanical door-closing arms.
In the hostage incident, Tortorici prevented police from getting in by tying a fire hose around the door handles. Students eventually rushed him and untied the hose, leaving two students wounded but allowing police to apprehend Tortorici.
Sociology professor Glenn Deane, who has been teaching at the university for nearly 27 years, was on campus when Tortorici held students hostage.
“We all like to hope that it won’t happen to us, but it has happened here with terrible consequences,” said Deane.
The university reports that three quarters of classroom doors are equipped with card-swipe locks which UPD could remotely lockdown, though assistant chief Mull said that lockdowns may not be the best option in the event of an active shooter.
He emphasized that since the hostage situation, UPD has developed the first New York State-certified police officer training for active shooter incidents. UPD officers are required to go through such training once a year at minimum.
Mull also maintained that it is not practical for the university to conduct school-wide lock down drills because of the size and structure of the campus.
“Adults are responsible for themselves and they’ve got to take the steps to get the
information,” he said. “We are here to provide it but really we need folks to come to us and say, I want it.”
Other colleges and universities take a different approach. This past January, Utica College
conducted a schoolwide active shooter drill.
Saint Rose’s student paper, The Saint Rose Chronicle, reported earlier this month that the private school will hold a drill on April 27.
Some schools, like Arkansas State University, have include active shooter response
training into their freshman orientation programs.
Daryle Henry, a sophomore student who works as a shift leader in the Campus Center, said that the campus center staff received active shooter training last summer.
Henry felt that he was well prepared to handle various emergency situations, but other, less involved students may not be.
When asked if he had an emergency plan, Brian Torres, a junior in communications, said he would just run somewhere and hide. Torres said he would like to see a larger effort by the university to inform students of UAlbany’s emergency preparations.
“I think it’s something that they should make people more aware of…it’s not something that’s widely known to students,” said Torres. “If you ask most people they probably wouldn’t know the specific plan in place that the university might have for them.”
UPD’s website contains a link to a New York State-produced video with general guidelines of what to do in an active shooter situation.
“We’re hoping to get enough people to go to this training, so that if there is an event, there will be enough people there to do what you see in the active shooter video,” said assistant chief Mull.