Visiting professor Holley Hansen couldn’t barricade the door to her classroom if a gunman were to come onto the Oklahoma State University campus.
Hansen, who has not been through extensive “active shooter” training, said it would be a challenge to protect her students because most large items such as desks are bolted down in her classroom.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s reasonable to expect that faculty members should be prepared for these worst-case scenarios and be prepared to protect their students,” Hansen said.
But OSU faculty, staff and students are on their own to figure out what to do if a gunman were to come on campus, according to university officials.
At OSU, active shooter response training is not mandatory but is available for faculty, staff and students upon request through the OSU Police Department.
University officials said they encourage the OSU community to watch a video, “Shots Fired,” which is available to anyone with an O-KEY login on the university’s safety website.
In 2009, OSU officials added a crisis response guide to its website, which includes guidelines for an active shooter situation.
But campus administrators said students, staff and faculty members should have their own plans prepared.
OSU Police Chief David Altman said people should educate themselves and have a plan in the event of an active shooter on campus.
“It is probably a false sense of security to think that you’re going to turn to the professor, and they’re going to save you,” said Carrie Hulsey-Greene, associate director of communications at OSU. “That’s not their responsibility. They’re reacting with human nature just like everyone else in that classroom is.”
Hansen, a political science professor, went through OSU’s faculty orientation in 2013. She said gunman situations were mentioned briefly, but they were not discussed at length.
Hansen said she supports the idea of mandatory online training for faculty.
“I think it would be reasonable if they had an online course they’d like us to run through and then fill out questions to understand what our shooter plan would be,” Hansen said. “I think that’s something that would accessible, that would be flexible with all the faculty members’ time and would take some pressure off of, I think, the individual police officers and university officials.”
Hulsey-Greene said requiring such training isn’t feasible.
“It would be next to impossible to mandate every single scenario training like 'Shots Fired' on our faculty, on all of our staff,” she said. “What would be the incentive (to complete the training)?”
OSU Senior Police Officer K. Adam Queen said the likelihood of getting shot on campus is comparable to the probability of getting struck by lightning.
Last year, OSU police arrested a student for threatening a school shooting on campus via Yik-Yak, a social media app.
Kyron Birdine posted a string of yaks with messages including, “School shooting on campus this Friday. You have been warned,” and “Friday. Stay inside if you value your life. It will be a day of retribution.”
Birdine was expelled from the university last spring and pleaded guilty to making threats by electronic communication in February. He was placed on probation under a one-year deferred sentence and agreed to pay about $1,000 in fines, according to court documents. Birdine also agreed to complete 20 hours of community service within nine months and to present proof of employment or enrollment in school.
Mandatory training isn’t required even at some universities where shootings have occurred in recent years.
A Northern Illinois University police sergeant said the university adopted a training program for the community after a campus shooting left six dead in 2008.
The ALICE training, an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is an active shooter response program that educates people on handling situations involving gunmen.
Before the department offered training regarding gunmen on campus through the ALICE program, no instruction outside of an emergency notification guide was available to students, faculty and staff, Sgt. Dathan Jackson said in a phone interview.
“I think since the incident happened something like the ALICE program that was created definitely created an opportunity for further training and development,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the university doesn’t require students, faculty and staff to participate in the training.
From 2000 to 2013, 160 active shooter incidents resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, according to an FBI study. Thirty-nine of the shootings happened in an educational environment, according to the study.
No state or federal mandates require universities to offer training for students, faculty or staff. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides guidelines about responding to an active shooter.
The University of Oklahoma Police Department also provides active shooter response training presentations upon request. A list of safety guidelines can be found on OU’s website, OUPD Major Bruce Chan said in an email.
Ty Moeder of Mitigation Dynamics, which trains companies and higher education institutions on workplace safety, said everyone should receive some form of training relating to how to properly respond to an active shooter. Moeder also said safety information should be readily available to everyone.
“We’re of the opinion that you absolutely should be offering information out just like we do for fire drills, just like we do for tornadoes,” said Moeder, a founding partner of the Kansas City, Missouri, firm. “It’s no different.”
OSU officials discounted the argument that faculty could be trained on what to do in certain circumstances involving a gunman on campus.
Altman said it’s impossible to tell faculty, staff and students how they should react because their response is dependent on the situation.
He said each person is responsible for his or her own safety, including students and professors.
“Students are aware to a large degree of what’s going on in this world,” Altman said. “They know it’s a possibility, and we can’t force anyone to prepare, but we encourage people to prepare ahead of time for what they need to do to take responsibility for themselves.”
The Student Government Association president said he doesn’t know whether mandatory training would be the best way to reach students.
“The best route for more communication would probably be just through freshman orientation classes; that way, new students when they come are made aware,” Kyle Hilbert said. “I don’t think it’s something that anyone knows what they would do until they’re there, but I think everyone has thought about it.”
Hilbert said the most important thing is for professors, graduate assistants and teaching assistants to be trained because students would look to them for guidance in an active shooter situation.
Faculty Council President Stephen Clarke said mandatory training would have to be a university policy.
“If we wanted to make it mandatory or if we were encouraged to do so by the administration, that’s not rocket science,” Clarke said. “That’s just an issue of putting together a policy that requires that we somehow documented individuals and faculty that actually completed the training by a certain deadline.”
Clarke said mandatory training on this topic has not been discussed among the council in the past few years.
Although not responsible for creating policies at OSU, Faculty Council does make recommendations to OSU President Burns Hargis.
“(Mandatory training) would be something that I know Council is willing to consider in terms of highly encouraging people to do it,” Clarke said. “The devil’s in the details there. When you make something mandatory, who’s going to be responsible for documenting training?”
Clarke said OSU’s Banner system this fall would likely make documenting training easier.
If students are concerned about the lack of mandatory training, they could have a representative come speak to the council, Clarke said.
“If SGA came and said ‘We would highly recommend that you consider making this mandatory training,’ that tends to have a little more weight than a faculty member saying, ‘Hey guys, I think this needs to be absolutely required,'” Clarke said.
Hulsey-Greene said the only way to prevent an active shooter situation is for people to be aware of their surroundings and be active in stopping incidents from occurring.
“There is no way for us to make sure every single person reads everything we give them, looks through every page we have on our website,” Hulsey-Greene said. “You can’t force people to take advantage of it.”