In recent weeks, there have been four college shootings across the U.S., leaving 12 people dead and 14 wounded. On Oct. 11, a student opened fire at a dorm building at the University of South Florida; although no one was injured or killed, this event hit closer to home. People across the country are still in shock, and these events have left many students wondering, is my campus safe?
A survey released earlier this month suggested that overall, campuses nationwide may not be as prepared to deal with an active shooter as people think. Out of the 513 campus officials surveyed from public and private four-year universities, 25.4 percent said that no active shooter drills have been conducted on their campuses, according to Margolis Healy, a private campus safety and security firm.
The University of Tampa takes many measures to ensure the safety on campus for both students and faculty.
“Once we knew that a dangerous incident was occurring, we would need to keep in communication with the campus community,” Linda Devine, the vice president of operations and planning said. “We would also be working in cooperation with local, state and federal authorities to stabilize the situation and return the campus to normal operations.”
Devine went on to explain that in the case of an emergency on campus, it will be communicated to students and faculty through email, social media, Blackboard, and SMART text messaging for those who have listed their cell phone numbers on SpartanWeb.
Realistic drills in preparation for emergency situations such as fires, inclement weather and active shooters are conducted frequently so that Campus Safety officers are well versed with lockdown and evacuation techniques.
“Campus Safety engages in regular training and we have held tabletop exercise on campus with others,” Devine said. “The university’s Emergency Communication Group meets every other week to plan for campus emergencies of all types.”
However, our campus has security booths at the main and side entrances of the university that are not consistently monitored. “It would be counterproductive to wall off the campus from the rest of the world,” said Devine, “Plant Hall is certainly an attractor for visitors from around the world.”
Residence hall restrictions and required identification for students, faculty and visitors are some of the further steps taken to ensure our campus’ safety.
The campus is equipped with the Blue Light System, which are phone stations equip with high intensity strobe lights that allow student to easily get in contact with Campus Safety officers in the case of immediate danger. Dozens of stations are scattered in a variety of areas across campus and the Department of Business Services checks all the devices on a regular basis, according to Devine.
“If I ever was in any danger, the blue lights are all over campus and I would know if I needed assistance I could get it quick and easy,” said Rebecca Bross, a junior psychology major. “In the Tampa area, I feel pretty safe as long as I’m aware of my surroundings and am with a group of people.”
Bross took part in a self-defense sisterhood class with her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, last semester which focused on ways to protect one’s self from harm or remove one’s self from a dangerous situation using both verbal and physical techniques.
“We learned as women how to protect ourselves if we were ever in danger,” Bross said. “It was so helpful and I’m glad that as a sorority, we learned these valuable lessons to defend ourselves because self defense is a very important skill to have.”
UT offers a variety of programs for students, who would like to further be involved with the safety across campus, including the Student of Concern Program and Silent Witness, where students can anonymously report online if they have seen a crime.
“Don’t let friends travel alone and don’t leave friends when you are out,” Devine said. “We need to trust our instincts: we know when something does not look or feel quite right.”