At MU: Campus security comes under scrutiny after shootings

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:59 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech show the need for specific safety policies for faculty members to follow when faced with a shooter or similar threat in their classroom, said Jenice Prather-Kinsey, vice chairwoman of the MU Faculty Council.

The massacre, in which a gunman killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus and wounded many others, has shocked and saddened MU administrators, students, residence hall officials and those who have ties to the Virginia Tech community.

Prather-Kinsey said that she was “sure” the Faculty Council would take up the issue of classroom safety and that she would likely “write a memo to Faculty Council to establish some procedures we could give to our faculty in case of such an incident.”

While some faculty members “do practice campus safety” through drills and procedures, Prather-Kinsey said, she is “not aware of (other) training going on, as far as what to look for in students, what to do, who you contact.”

Prather-Kinsey said that because she teaches international accounting, she has been trained how to deal with threatening, unstable students and dangerous situations through MU’s International Center. Other faculty, she said, probably have not been trained the same way.

“I had a student once who went berserk in my classroom, actually later kidnapping his wife … and then later he was arrested. I had no idea what to do,” she said. “I think it was my second year teaching here. Luckily another student calmed him down. If I hadn’t had the international training, I wouldn’t know what to do today.”

MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken said teachers and classrooms, in addition to departments, have an emergency preparedness plan available.

“It’s like a 173-page document,” Banken said. “For instance, if something happens in residential life, they pull out that plan and immediately take out their section.”

MU Residential Life staff met Monday because of the shooting to discuss procedures and how to address MU students from Virginia.

The meeting was for hall coordinators, who then checked in with student staff members, said Kristen Temple, associate director for Residential Academic Programs.

“We’ll also be following up with the students we know are from Virginia,” Temple said, “to make sure they are OK and offer them any support or campus resource.”

Temple said student staff members are not trained specifically to deal with someone wielding a gun. Instead, they are trained to deal with general emergencies and natural disasters, such as tornadoes and earthquakes.

“We go for a more general emergency-response training so that (student staff) are ready for a wide range of things,” Temple said.

“This is an isolated situation,” said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life at MU. “We tend to deal with potential for fires, earthquakes, etc. You can’t train somebody to deal with every single situation that might occur.”

Minor said that if a shooter were to enter an MU residence hall, plans are in place to protect students, including a remote-controlled automatic lockdown, evacuating students, barricading students in their rooms and alerting other residence halls of any potential danger.

Minor said student staff are trained to “get to know their student residents so they will know typical behavior for some students. We encourage them to know what’s atypical, and how to approach that student with concern.”

Greg Davis, president of MU’s Residence Hall Association, said he planned to bring up the incident at a meeting of the Residence Hall Congress scheduled for Monday night.

Kitty Dickerson, professor and chairwoman of the MU Department of Textile and Apparel Management, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech and served on the faculty there.

“I’ve spent 10 years of my life there, so I know the area and the campus well. It’s a beautiful, tranquil, peaceful campus normally, so I’m just in a state of disbelief that my former university could be now the site of the worst school shooting in our country’s history.”

Kevin Bradley, a professor in the plant sciences department at MU, received his doctorate from Virginia Tech and lived in Blacksburg, Va., for about eight years. Bradley described Blacksburg as a “very close-knit community, about half the size of Columbia.” He said that the faculty and student body were on his mind all day Monday and that he doesn’t think anyone he knows was involved.

“It’s terrible. I don’t know what to say. Your heart just goes out to those parents,” Bradley said. “It’s kind of hard to think about something like that happening in Blacksburg. It (would be) very similar to something like that happening in Columbia.”

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton was a member of the faculty of Virginia Tech for 11 years, beginning in 1978 as a professor of agricultural economics and coordinator of rural development research and extension program and spending his last four years as associate director of Virginia Tech’s Office for International Development.

“It is with great sadness that I send and post this message today as we begin to mourn the terrible tragedy that has occurred at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech,” Deaton said in a statement Monday evening. “Prior to joining Mizzou, I spent 11 years on the faculty there and can picture in my own mind the emotional devastation and incredible loss that has come to all those associated with that great land-grant university. This afternoon, we lowered the MU flags to half staff and sent a message of condolence and support to President (Charles) Steger. I anticipate that we will work with our students, faculty and staff in the hours ahead to plan an appropriate campus memorial observance.”

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