Officials put CSU on “heightened alert” in response to the deadly shootings at the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning.
The massacre that left at least 33 people dead, including the gunman, and wounded at least 15 was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, and has shined a spotlight on the safety of college campuses nationwide.
“Of course, this is very concerning to the administration,” said Brad Bohlander, a CSU spokesman. “I think there’s concern at every level of the university.”
In a similar event, CSU policy dictates that building proctors should coordinate with law enforcement to facilitate an evacuation or lockdown, Bohlander said.
But one CSU building proctor said he heard nothing of the heightened alert status.
“If something like that were to happen, I would call 911,” said Tamene Abebe, proctor for the Lory Student Center. “It’s better to contact the authorities.”
Abebe says he has received no formal training in the event of a gunman entering a campus facility.
“I have not had practice with a murderer,” he said. “I really am not sure about that because we have not experienced anything like that.”
Virginia Tech and CSU – both land-grant universities – are similar in both enrollment and the communities in which they operate. The two are considered peer institutions, and both boast enrollment of more than 25,000 students in eight different colleges.
Bohlander said that “systems are in place” to respond to violent crimes on the CSU campus, but added that the CSU Emergency Management Team, which is trained to react to natural disasters and other emergencies, prohibits releasing specific details of those plans.
“There are procedures outlined,” he said. “It’s a case-by-case decision made by the police department.”
Brad Wiesley, CU-Boulder’s police department commander, said that’s standard procedure.
“A lot of the tactics we use are used by other universities around the country,” Wiesley said. “We don’t publicize a lot about our security plan because we don’t want the wackos to know how we would react.”
Safeguarding against gunmen on a campus with the facilities and presence of CSU is no easy task, Bohlander said.
“We’re an open campus with lots of people,” he said. “We want to remind everyone to remain vigilant in reporting suspicious behavior to the police.”
Amid recovering from the horror of Monday’s bloody rampage, some Virginia Tech students are crying foul against the university.
Virginia Tech students were alerted of the shootings via e-mail, according to CNN, more than two hours after the first shooting took place in a residence hall.
CNN reported that more shootings took place in an engineering building two hours later – still, 42 minutes before students were alerted.
Bohlander said procedures are in place to ensure that CSU students would be alerted in a timely manner in a similar situation – through reverse 911 calls, e-mail alerts and “a working relationship with city and county law enforcement.”
But in the case of Virginia Tech, the shootings reportedly took place in separate locations before law enforcement was on the scene.
In the dorm halls, resident assistants are trained to lead in the event of an emergency.
Past and present CSU resident assistants, or RAs, said Monday that there is no formal procedure for dealing with an armed assailant in the residence halls.
RAs, like building proctors, are formally trained in fire response, unauthorized entries and other security concerns, but are not expected to react to emergencies involving deadly weapons, Bohlander said.
CSU President Larry Penley issued a written statement to CSU faculty and staff – not students – Monday night, calling the shootings that shook Virginia Tech and the community of Blacksburg, Va., a “horrific tragedy.”
“Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the students, faculty and staff of Virginia Tech as wells as the surrounding community of Blacksburg,” the statement said.
While Penley expressed sympathy for Virginia Tech and the community, he also stressed that CSU should remain “vigilant” in ensuring the safety on campus.
“Colorado State University places the highest priority on the well being of all those in our community,” the statement said.
Staff writer Stephanie Gerlach contributed to this report.
Associate news managing editor J. David McSwane can be reached at email@example.com.