On the morning of February 14, 2008 Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, who a year earlier was enrolled in the graduate sociology program at Northern Illinois University, went on a shooting rampage frighteningly reminiscent of last year’s Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University massacre. Upon entering the campus, Kazmierczak carried three firearms: two handguns and a shotgun. He then allegedly shot approximately twenty times into the audience of a large lecture hall, killing five students before taking his own life.
Less than a year ago, in April of 2007, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history occurred at Virginia Tech, resulting in 32 deaths. In that case, there were clear warning signs, which led to a new national dedication to early detection and prevention of incidents of school violence. Since last year, Northern Illinois, like most large universities, altered its security plan, increasing the on-campus police force, creating an early warning notification system and fast-response ambulance assurance and instigating a campus-wide lockdown procedure.
Unfortunately, in this case, planning was not enough. Before his shooting spree, Kazmierczak was described as an excellent student and a sociable and happy person. Cable news networks recently interviewed his girlfriend, who said Kazmierczak was a loving person who had shown no signs of such extreme distress.
For many college students, such an experience seems unimaginable. Northern Illinois University sophomore Alan Rodriguez explained what he experienced right after the incident occurred.
“I saw a bunch of people standing outside looking frantic,” Rodriguez said. “There was a guy who had just ran from the shooting. He had gotten hit in the back of the head and had blood all over his head and shoulder. After this, they immediately put us on lockdown for about an hour. My phone had no reception, so my family was getting all worried. There were no TVs so none of us had any idea what was going on. It was surreal.”
At Colgate, the Northern Illinois shooting was taken as a reminder that schools must do everything possible to attempt to keep campuses safe. While Colgate instigated several new security measures in response to the Virginia Tech shootings last year, the Northern Illinois incident caused the administration to make sure community members were aware of the changes.
Currently, Campus Safety, the Hamilton fire department and police department and several other area agencies are committed to assisting Colgate if an emergency ever were to arise. Colgate last year subscribed the to e2Campus notification system, which in the event of an emergency can be used to send text messages, phone messages and e-mails to the entire Colgate community.
In response to questions about Colgate’s emergency plan, Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said, “No institution can make absolute guarantees regarding community safety, but we do what we can to make this as safe an environment as possible.”