Hannah Pederson, Reporter
In light of recent events, it’s time to take into consideration increased security measures.
There have been 47 school shootings so far in 2015, according to the gun control advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety.
That’s 47 communities devastated in 2015 alone.
This situation has spiraled out of control. President Barack Obama’s heart wrenching statement following the Umpqua Community College shooting drew attention to this ridiculous state of affairs and called for increased gun control.
Yes, gun control has been proven to drastically decrease gun related violence, but it won’t be effective in a country where a significant portion of the populace views gun ownership as a God given right. And even then, would it be effective enough?
All of these shootings have left campuses nationwide in a state of grief and panic.
Students shouldn’t have to add violent death to the list of things they have to worry about upon entering campus. If students are focused on thoughts like “Am I as safe as I thought I was?” and “How will my loved ones function without me?”, is that an environment conducive to learning, or to macabre survival skills?
So we’re left with two solutions: dissolve society and live in subterranean bunkers, or increase campus security.
What can Pierce do to put students and staff at ease and maintain an academic atmosphere? Somewhere between a dystopic, militaristic hellscape where campus security morphs into the KGB and an open air commune, there exists a happy medium.
Currently, Pierce employs eight full-time and about 17 part-time campus safety officers who patrol the campus and maintain order. They don’t have the authority to conduct an arrest, but are equipped to contact those who do.
The Puyallup campus has a student population of 6,359 and one campus safety office. Even so, they handled last years’ bomb threat relatively well. But what if we aren’t so lucky next time around?
There are many opportunities for increased security at Pierce. At the moment, all it takes to get on campus is to drive in and go where you want, unless it’s after hours, in which case the appropriate building is unlocked and monitored by security staff. So what can Pierce do to tighten security?
Installing a campus safety station in every building to reduce emergency response time would be a good start, as well as increasing the amount of training and authority those officers receive. Not just officers, all students and staff should receive thorough emergency training all throughout the year and live by the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”
At every entrance to each building, Pierce could install full body scanners to ensure that nothing suspicious is entering the building, and every prospective student should have a thorough background check performed before being accepted to Pierce. The number and quality of security cameras should be increased so that no corner of Pierce is left unmonitored.
All of these additional security measures may not have room in the budget, but administration should take into consideration Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If students are on edge about the safety of their lives, they can’t spare much effort to expand their academic horizons. If instructors are constantly preoccupied with the nearest exit points in their classrooms, they won’t have much time left for their students.
But if students and staff are prepared to the point where emergency protocols are second nature and major measures are taken to improve overall security, they can be free to worry about non life threatening things, like maintaining their GPA or deciding whether or not to grade on a curve.
This all seems very Big Brother-esque, but if a student or staff member has nothing to hide, what should they be worried about?
Alex Heldrich, Reporter
America has a serious problem. In 2015 alone there been 47 school shootings, 21 of which have resulted in death or injury. Last October, Washington state had a school shooting of its own at Marysville-Pilchuck High School where four students were killed and three were injured.
The most recent shooting took place at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Ore. According to Oregon State Police, nine students were killed and 20 were wounded.
The recent shooting may have hit close to home for some students and staff at Pierce as it took place at a community college. The suggestion that security personnel at Pierce needs to increase has come up. However, increasing the number of safety officers isn’t the right answer.
Pierce wouldn’t be able to hire more safety officers immediately, which is the time they’re most needed. According to CNN, the congestion of copycat shootings and threats lasts 13 days after the initial shooting. It’s not realistic to think that new employees would be hired that quickly.
Between the Puyallup and Fort Steilacoom campuses, there are already eight full-time safety officers and about 17 part-time guards. These officers patrol both campuses by foot and vehicle.
Hiring more safety officers would add a lofty additional expense to Pierce’s budget. According to Salary.com, full-time unarmed safety officers in Puyallup make about $30,000 a year.
Hiring five to 10 new officers would cost the college an additional $150,000 to $300,000. A smaller college such as Pierce wouldn’t be able to spend that additional money without cutting funding elsewhere.
All safety officers at Pierce are unarmed as well. If someone on campus was making violent threats, there’s not much an unarmed officer could do besides trying to verbally reason with the person. A gunman with the intention to kill probably won’t stand by and be coerced by a safety officer that could be taken down with one bullet.
There are myriad alternatives to protecting the students and staff of Pierce than by just increasing security.
Safety officers at Pierce need to be armed with self defense weapons such as a stun gun or pepper spray. There should also be one or two armed officers in case they’re ever needed to protect students. If the person trying to cause harm is the only one on campus with a weapon, they have a clear advantage because no one else can defend themselves. All guards should go through special training in order to prepare them for an event where they have to deal with an active shooter.
In my experience on the Puyallup campus, though it may be short, I’ve only once seen a security guard patrolling campus by vehicle. I’ve never seen one patrolling campus by foot. Students and staff can call the campus safety office if they want an escort, but that will do no good in the case of a gunman on campus. The existing officers need to go on more patrols, looking out for suspicious activity.
A security booth could be built at the entrances of the campus to ensure only students and staff are getting on campus with the addition of approved visitors. Staff members and students could go through training on what to do in the event of a gunman as well.
Until the root of school shootings can be solved, students and staff need to be prepared and able to protect themselves. A school shooting at the Puyallup campus may never happen, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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