Student training is key in UConn plan for potential campus violence

The massacre of students and faculty at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon sparked another peak in the national dialogue concerning gun safety, regulation and campus security.

The president of the University of Connecticut, Susan Herbst, as well as the chief of UConn police, Barbara O’Connor held a roundtable discussion last week to discuss the university’s policies and planning regarding such incidents of violence. Herbst and the other roundtable members spoke of the need to inform all members of the UConn community of plans and methods of responding and preventing such tragedies.

While such discussions are valuable and help to provide student and faculty input on policy and safety measures, they cannot only be held in reaction to incidents of campus violence. Such plans must be laid out proactively, revised continuously, and communicate to all members of this community from the moment they enter campus life.

Campus safety is a grave concern in the era of regular mass shootings. These tragedies are an unfortunate reality in today’s world. The Hartford Courant reported on the UConn roundtable, reporting Herbst hoped to start more enhanced preparation by “training employees and staff who have contact with the greatest number of people each day in their offices or classes.” Herbst produced this plan in response to a concern from a current UConn student who wished to see students, faculty and staff trained in “how to deal with an active shooter on campus and in suicide prevention.”

While gradually rolling out a plan and training to those staff and faculty who deal with students on a regular basis is a somewhat pragmatic approach to training, placing all available resources into training for students should be of paramount concern.

While these tragedies often occur in the classroom, they could very well unfold in another environment, such as an off-campus area or the library. In these instances, education in a seminar – for instance with freshman orientation – would be a valuable tool that could potentially save lives. Clearly, no level of education can possibly prepare any individual for the trauma and chaos of a tragic situation such as that in Oregon. However, if there is even a slim chance that training could help a student react more effectively in such a situation, it is well worth the effort.

UConn Police Chief Barbara O’Connor said, “It's about prevention and putting our resources into preventing this type of harm, and that's where I think students can come into play.” An aim at prevention is an optimistic approach to this frequent form of violent attack on the public. While this should be the aim of the UConn community, there is always the unfortunate chance that a tragedy could occur. As this is the reality we live with, training for students, faculty and staff—from day one—should be the policy for UConn administration.