Editorial: Campus officials lack readiness and action in ‘drill’

The Dominican Star’s Editorial Board has written the following piece. Editorials contain the opinions of the members of the Editorial Board. Members include Editor-in-Chief Cory Lesniak, Managing Editor Jocelyn Cano, Sports Editor Marty Carlino, Digital Editor Sarah Tinoco, News & Features Editor Melissa Rohman and Staff Reporter Natalie Rodriguez.

Each issue of the Dominican Star will contain editorial on various trending topics. The opinions do not reflect those of Dominican University.

Before reading on, ask yourself this question: do you really feel safe on campus? In all honesty we don’t. With all the college shootings that have recently taken place, we feel that Dominican University is in a vulnerable position. In the following piece we would like to examine our university’s current plan of action, or lack thereof, in the case of an active shooter.

First, lets look into the “active shooter drill” that supposedly took place the week of Oct. 7. The drill was designed to mimic the procedures that would need to take place during the intrusion of an actively armed shooter. Instead, there were announcements made over the PA system, however there were some students that reported not hearing them. For example, students on the Priory campus were not notified of the drill by a PA announcement. There were texts and emails sent through the emergency alert system about the drill to every Dominican student, faculty and staff member registered. However, students were not asked to take precautionary actions similar to those they would take if this were actually happening. Faculty and staff were informed via email that there was going to be a drill, but they weren’t told what specific procedures to follow while in the classroom, office, etc. There is an action plan set and on record on the MyDU page however the drill we had didn’t explain the things listed in the online procedure.

So what did this drill accomplish? It did test the emergency notification system through texts and emails to students, faculty and staff, both on and off campus, which proved to be successful. However, what wasn’t proven successful through the drill were the precautionary actions, or lack thereof, of the Dominican community. What we mean by this is there were no actions taken by the community during the duration of the drill. Therefore, how would we prepare for such an emergency if we don’t know what to do if it actually happens?

Are we supposed to run in all directions and/or leave campus? Do we remain in the building barricading ourselves in our classrooms? Do we go out into an open field in large numbers? Unfortunately, none of those questions were answered before or after the supposed exercise. As students, it is disheartening to see the waste of time and effort for a drill that lacked direction.

First and foremost, drills at any educational institution are imperative for the safety and wellbeing of all on campus. During a fire drill, we are told to evacuate the building. During a tornado drill, we are told to crouch down in the hallway of the lowest floor and stay away from windows and glass. During the inaugural active shooter drill, all we received was a text message and/or email. The problem that remains is the uncertainty of how to act.

We acknowledge that this is a difficult situation that has more than one answer and maybe even no right answer. It’s easy for us to critique what actually took place, so we would like to offer our suggestions on what we think needs to change immediately. There needs to be more communication and a stronger sense of trust between those who make the plans and those who are told to follow them. For example, faculty and staff were told about the drill weeks in advance so they could have enough time to makes any changes in their schedules to accommodate the drill. What happened during the drill? Nothing out of the ordinary happened because professors didn’t know what to do. In some cases, it was quite embarrassing for the instructors who had no clue what to do because they just stood there hoping there would be some further instruction that never came. There has to be clear communication between the emergency response team and the Dominican community about drills.

We would also like to see an improvement regarding the presence of campus security. Yes they do exist despite the fact that we rarely see them. We are aware that Dominican recently outsourced their security, but with the recent events in the news you would think that security would be tighter with more shifts and/or personnel. We don’t support student security officers being armed but we certainly wouldn’t mind properly trained adult officers carrying around a certified weapon. We would also appreciate the River Forest Police coming around from time to time.

Dominican University and its officials need to realize that this is a serious problem now more than ever. In the unfortunate event of an active shooter on campus all we can be certain of is that we’ll be alerted via text and/or email. That isn’t enough. Students, faculty, staff and the RFPD should all work together to insure that everyone has some idea of how to act in the event of an active shooter. What is the response time? Where should students go? What should students and staff do? None of these questions were, in any way, answered during that drill. We are disappointed with University officials and their lack of preparation and communication regarding the so-called “drill.”