DSU Shootings Test Emergency Systems

Vanessa Persico

Early Friday morning, when an argument at Delaware State University (DSU) escalated into gunfire and two students were wounded, DSU administrators immediately locked down the campus. Investigators believe, according to NYTimes.com, that those responsible for the shootings then fled campus.

The confinement of the casualties to two students may be a testimony to the benefits of fast emergency communication during a crisis, which may in turn support the use of such emergency alert systems as e2Campus, currently in place at Colgate.

E2Campus, and programs like it, sends emergency notifications to all cell phones, PDAs, Blackberry devices, home telephones and e-mail addresses that register to receive them.

These alert systems surged in popularity in the wake of last April’s massacre of 32 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University by a single student. Many had later condemned Virginia Tech administrators for not locking down campus in the two-hour interval between the first two shootings and second group of 30, and for failing to communicate to students, parents, or faculty what had taken place. Virginia Tech officials have said that one reason for this was that they initially believed that the gunman had left campus after the first two shootings.

Indeed, this incident was in the back of DSU administrators’ minds when they decided how to respond to Friday’s crisis: NYTimes.com quoted DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes as saying, “We learned from Virginia Tech.”

In contrast to Virginia Tech’s response, according to NYTimes.com, even though DSU officials believed that the shooters had left the area, they “alerted students of the emergency within 15 minutes and locked down most buildings. Within two hours, students and administrators said, officials at the 400-acre campus…had posted fliers at dorms and a message on the campus Web site. They also telephoned campus residence halls to make sure resident advisers knew what was going on and to tell them that classes were canceled Friday.”

In spite of DSU’s quick response, a Delaware Online article reported Monday that parents and relatives of DSU students have still expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of communication between the university and themselves.

Two students, Shalita Middleton and Nathaniel Pugh III, were shot and wounded during the fight, part of a conflict that had allegedly been ongoing between two groups of students, one from New Jersey and the other from Washington, D.C. Eighteen-year-old Loyer D. Braden has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and reckless endangering.