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Megan Poe
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My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
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Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Campus active-shooter policy just now distributed to Northern faculty

NMU’s plan to cope with a school shooter is only now being widely disseminated to faculty and administrators, five months after the Virginia Tech shooting, which killed 32 students and faculty and injured dozens more.

The plan was written and published on Public Safety’s Web site in the days immediately following the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. But the process of officially disseminating it to all faculty members didn’t begin until Sept. 11, when Public Safety Director Ken Chant sent an e-mail to a list of deans and provosts asking them to have their staffs review the active- shooter guidelines.

The deans then forwarded this e-mail to their department heads with a note urging them to make the plan a priority and add it to the agenda of the next department meeting.

A staff forum was held after the shootings at Virginia Tech for faculty who wished to be informed of the revised plan, said Cindy Paavola, director of communications.

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“The forum was held immediately after the shootings and was intended for faculty who were interested in learning our procedures for a shooting on campus,” Paavola said.

Documents provided to a North Wind reporter by a Public Safety officer shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings included a written active-shooter plan that assigns faculty specific roles to help reduce the death toll in an attack. This plan, along with a PowerPoint, was posted on the Public Safety Web site before May 1, 2007.

However, North Wind interviews with multiple faculty members and administrators indicate many people assigned crucial roles in the active-shooter plan were unaware that the plan even existed, much less their role in it.

“Is this policy well known? Probably not,” said English department head Jim Schiffer. He also stated that he was sending the plan on to his department and would be sharing the plan with his faculty at the next department meeting.

“The faculty is in the process of being made aware,” Chant said. “I recently sent out an e-mail to the deans informing them to pass the information on to the department heads.”

When asked if there was a reason for the delay between the plan being written and it being sent out to faculty – a period encompassing two summer school sessions and the beginning of fall semester – Chant cited the difficulty in sending out information at the start of the school year. No other reason was given for the delay.

Administrators contacted by the North Wind about the time lapse in the dissemination of the active-shooter plan said they had little if any knowledge about the delay or the plan itself.

NMU’s new Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Susan Koch, who began working at NMU this July, said that except for receiving an e-mail from Chant, she had no other knowledge of the active shooter plan intended for faculty at NMU.

Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration, expressed similar knowledge of the policy.

“I know we have a plan. We’ve always had a written plan,” Leach said. “I don’t really know all the details of the plan.” Leach advised that further questions be directed to Chant.

This new policy emphasizes faculty response and is different than the already existing internal active shooter policy. That plan, referenced by Leach, involves Public Safety training and response. The internal active shooter response plan has been in place for several years, Chant said.

Training given to Public Safety officers includes situation training via computer simulation which involves a variety of scenarios incorporating actual floor plans of campus buildings, Chant said.

By contrast, the active-shooter policy distributed to faculty contains nine guidelines meant to help faculty protect themselves and students in the event of an active shooting on campus. In addition it includes information on what to report when contacting authorities, un-securing an area and a brief overview of Public Safety response.

Several key guidelines for faculty to follow in the plan include barricading the classroom door, turning off lights, turning off computer monitors and placing signs in windows to alert rescue personnel of the location of injured persons.

On Aug. 30, the Virginia Tech Review Panel released the official findings of its review of the school’s preparedness and response to the shootings. Part of this report was an excerpt from Virginia Tech’s emergency response plan. That plan, nearly identical to NMU’s new plan, was praised by the review board as helpful tool in minimizing the loss of life in the shootings.

The report credits many of the previously mentioned guidelines, including barricading the door and keeping students calm and quiet, with saving the lives of students in up to four of the classrooms that Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman in the Virginia Tech attack, attempted to enter.

But no one on a campus can ever be completely prepared for such a horrific scenario.

“The hard part about the whole situation is there is no perfect set of guidelines we can come up with,” Paavola said. “What works best in one instance might not work in another.”

Public Safety officer Ken Love affirmed the importance of being prepared for a shooting no matter how unlikely such an event may seem at NMU.

“The reality of the situation is that no matter where you are this kind of thing can happen,” Love told the North Wind shortly after the Virginia Tech shootings. “You don’t want to say it but events like this are nearly impossible to prevent.”

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