I jump every time I hear a loud noise on campus. I don’t jump because the noise startles me but rather, at the core of my being, I know those loud noises could signify a tragedy.
Logically, I know it’s just a book hitting a desk, but there’s still that moment where dozens of questions circle in my head. What’s going on? Was that a gunshot? Where do we go? What do we do? These thoughts and worries have slowly increased since my start at Truman State University, and in the wake of the multiple mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, I can’t help but feel a little more on edge.
This fear dates back to my time in high school, where there were open discussions about emergency situations, drills and even an officer or two on school grounds. And yet, despite all these precautions, so many lives are lost and altered simply by attending school, a place where students should feel safe. The fact is that even when students and faculty have a plan, we’re still losing lives.
When you come to college, you assume you’re in a safe place and everyone is prepared in the event of a catastrophe. But, in the three years I have been at Truman, I have never had a professor cover any information relating to emergencies or read through the emergency section required in the syllabus, nor have I ever been required to attend a workshop or seminar addressing how students should respond in traumatic events. I understand having high expectations for faculty, but I don’t think there should be an expectation for college staff to be prepared for these events without proper training.
The most in-depth safety coverage I have received at this University is a professor telling me, the emergency procedures poster is located by the door in each classroom. I do not place all the blame on the faculty, because I think it’s a University-wide issue and Truman, in general, lack preparation.
I get it — it’s scary. No one wants to think about the what ifs, but without a dialogue and a coherent plan, Truman is not equipped to handle an active shooter. Perhaps Truman has a plan, but as a student who has been here for three years, I’ve yet to be made aware of this plan. I still ask questions like “Where should I go?”, “Where am I safest?” and “Who are the main respondents?” I believe these are all questions students should have answers to and feel confident in.
In my opinion, there is a connection between mass shootings and mental health. No mentally well person should think shooting innocent, unarmed people is a good idea. Research done in a 2016 study by Jeffrey W. Swanson, a research from Duke University, shows only about four percentage of gun violence is connected to mental health. However, even at such a small percentage, school shootings should be taken seriously at our University. Mental wellness is an area Truman struggles with because of our overachieving and competitive attitudes for success.
Truman is a school and it is considered a home to many students. I have lived off campus the past two years, and if I don’t feel safe in my classroom, what are the chances I would feel safe in a residence hall? People deserve to feel and be safe in their homes and schools. Innocent people shouldn’t have to die while trying to receive an education. For the safety and consideration of students, Truman needs to implement and make students aware of safety procedures especially in the case of an active shooter. There should be annual trauma trainings for both faculty and students to better prepare the University. Also, requiring or urging professors to spend more time talking about emergency procedures during syllabus day would be a small but extremely helpful idea. There doesn’t have to be a huge change, but Truman needs to better prepare and consider the safety of everyone at this institution.