NIU Shooting Falls Through the Cracks

If I am going into the city, people tell me to watch out for myself. If I am on my way to a party, people tell me to be careful. When I get on the Interstate, my dad tells me to be safe. But no one ever tells me to be cautious when I’m headed to a class. In fact, when I head back to school, my family wants me to call once I get to Colgate, safe and sound. As if once I set foot on campus, I’ll be protected. Unfortunately, the events of last Thursday are further proof that this is not the case. It is becoming more and more apparent that schools cannot guarantee safety to their students, and a lecture hall maybe more dangerous than the inner city.

It was less than a year ago that I was writing a very similar article. Only nine months have gone by since the Virginia Tech shooting and again our nation has been shocked by another horrific school shooting. Will we ever learn? Or will campus shootings become a commonplace occurrence? Already, the desensitization of our nation toward such atrocities is becoming obvious. The media devoted minimal resources to cover the shooting at Northern Illinois University that took the lives of seven students and left nearly a dozen others in critical condition. Five hours after the event, MSNBC, Headline News, and CNBC were barely reporting the story. Half of my dorm headed out to the Jug that night without even hearing about NIU. While this attack was not on the scale of Virginia Tech, it still should have been breaking news on every TV channel. Even Colgate is guilty of not recognizing the tragedy; we should have had a moment of silence or a vigil. It even took until late on Tuesday to send out a campus distribution email letting everyone know what happened and expressing Colgate’s condolences. Why did it take so long? Apparently, school shootings are evoking only a blasé reaction nowadays. As a nation, what kind of message are we sending when we give such a mundane response to such a violent occurrence? I guess only seven young, innocent lives aren’t enough to lower the flag for!

After the senseless massacre at Virginia Tech, our nation came together in support of the victims and their families. We said we would learn from Virginia Tech and never let such an incident ever occur again. We failed. Hopefully this time, people will take serious the risk of these shootings and do everything possible to prevent future ones and to minimize the impact any potential shooter might have. Colgate is lucky because our rural setting protects us from a lot of the world. However, the ‘Colgate Bubble” can’t be relied upon to protect us forever. It may seem far-fetched that they’re ever being an attack here, but we should still be prepared. As someone who lives about 30 minutes away from NIU and knows over 200 students from my graduating class who attend school there, this tragedy hit home for me. I was familiar with some of the victims. I will never forget the phone call in which a close friend of mine who is a sophomore at NIU first alerted to me that a shooting had occurred. We never thought it would happen near us, but it did. And it could happen anywhere, at any time.

Granted there is little that the school, nor anyone else, can do to protect students from such senseless fates. Still, schools have an obligation to do the best they can, and that means keeping out as many potential enemies as they can. At NIU, the shooter wasn’t even a student! He should never have had access to that lecture hall. A large university, in a large suburban, should have all buildings locked and only accessible by swiping an ID card. Of course this wouldn’t prevent all shooters, but it would ensure that only faculty and students had access to these building change it. Colgate has been exploring the option of transitioning the campus to swipe cards for all Greek Houses and academic buildings, however, lack of interest and funding have brought it to a bit of a halt. Hopefully, a positive can come out of this and Colgate and other colleges will reevaluate and reopen the swipe card debate. Or use codes, but lock the building 24/7 and don’t give out the code to every restaurant in town that delivers. Sure it is incontinent to have to go downstairs to pick up your food, but in some areas it could significantly increase the security of the dormitories.

Hopefully, I will never have to write an article like this again. In the meantime, schools should be beefing up security and creating response plans so they can prevent or be prepared to deal with the ever more likely event of a shooting. I think I speak for everyone at Colgate when I express our deepest sympathies and condolences for the victims and families of the NIU tragedy. You all are in our thoughts and prayers.