Imagine a beautiful morning at Temple. The weather is warm, and the view from the lawn near the Bell Tower is exceptional.
Students are soaking up the sun, playing cards, eating pizza and having a good time. Now imagine a single person. It could be anyone – a man, a woman, a student, a visitor. Suddenly, that person takes out a gun, aims it at the surrounding students, and begins to fire randomly. In the moments that follow, people with loved ones and promising futures are hurt or even killed.
The thought of such an occurrence could easily be dismissed, but it can happen. It has happened, at Dawson College in Montreal, Canada.
“Before this happened, there was never any loss of life or serious act of violence committed on this campus,” said Donna Varrica, the director of communications at Dawson College.
“There are students from over 60 ethnic communities who attend this school. It’s a small school, and violent crimes are rare.”
Dawson College is a small campus, no bigger than 12 acres in length. There are 187 security cameras stationed all over the campus.
The security officers know each student by name, and vice versa. The security officers are also unarmed.
“In the hours after the shooting, we decided that we didn’t want to turn this into an armed campus,” Varrica said. “We will not have armed security officers or metal detectors here.
Varrica believes that the solution to preventing future violence involves more than just upping the security.
“We have doubled the amount of officers
on duty, but there is no way to predict something like this,” said Varrica.
“There’s no way to plan for this, because you can’t predict the human mind. You can plan an escape in the event of a fire or a chemical spill, but the human mind is much more difficult to predict.”
In the weeks following the incident at Dawson College, school-related shootings have occurred in Bailey, Colo. and Lancaster, Pa. The frequency of the attacks and the proximity of the recent incident in Lancaster have caused many students a great deal of stress. Many are tightlipped about the topic, but some are speaking out.
“Shootings can happen anywhere,” said Brandon Resnick, a junior advertising major. “No matter how much they secure this place, someone’s [going to] bring a gun in.”
Ed Godfrey, a religion graduate student, is more optimistic.
“I don’t think all these shootings increase the chances of it happening here,” he said. “This is a larger setting. Who’s got a grudge against Temple?”
According to Campus Safety Services’ Annual Security Report, any individual who is caught carrying a firearm on the campus will be arrested and cited appropriately.
Valid license owners are no exception. Some reassurance can be found in the Annual Security Report booklet, which can be found at the Temple Campus Safety Services building on 1101 W. Montgomery Ave. In 2005, Campus Police made only one arrest on Main Campus for weapons possession. There were no arrests for weapons possessions at the Tyler or Harrisburg campuses. In all three shooting incidents, communication
“The security officers became saviors and got the students to safety,” Varrica said.
“While security was evacuating students and calling the police, students were text-messaging each other about what was happening. The combination of security, student and police communication saved a lot of lives that day.”
The incidents in Montreal, Colorado, and now Pennsylvania serve as chilling reminders that acts of violence can occur at any school at any time. Students around the country are encouraged by law enforcement and other sources to remain vigilant and report any suspicious situations or individuals.
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org