SUNY Buffalo State College students reflect on lack of communication and preparation during shelter-in-place

Cait Malilay, News Editor

It’s been a little over a week since SUNY Buffalo State College was ordered to shelter-in-place after there was a nearby shooting outside of McKinley High School.

Everything appears to be back to normal: students with their backpacks, the usual sound of the blender at Starbucks in Academic Commons and students rushing to their classes.

The suspects may have been identified and it may feel like a lot of time has passed since then, but we mustn’t forget what we’ve learned from this experience.

The Record had a chance to interview students on their experience and their thoughts on how the overall campus community was prepared.

Katie Egan, a sophomore, was in her dorm in Tower One when she read the Buffalo State email alert and described that many students were acting as if nothing had happened.

“I could see out the window that people had left our building. I was like, ‘Why are you leaving the building?’” she said. “I even went down to the first floor and there were no resident assistants down there, so it was just very concerning.”

According to one RA, they do not receive training.

Michael Storm, a junior, was in Ketchum Hall on the basement level when he found out.

“Someone looked on their phone and said, ‘Hey, we’re in lockdown.’ I was completely confused like, ‘What do you mean lockdown?’ I mean, I knew what lockdown was when I was in high school,” he said.

There is a difference between shelter-in-place and lockdown, but many college students can’t differentiate between the two.

“What I don’t think was good was we, the students, and even my professor was like, ‘What are you guys going on about?’” Storm said. “Nobody knew what was happening and what it meant to be in lockdown or shelter-in-place on this level. That’s not ok, in my opinion.”

Despite being ordered to shelter-in-place, many students were still roaming around the halls of Ketchum.

Both Storm and Egan agree that the Campbell Student Union would be one of the last places they would want to be if a lockdown or shelter-in-place were to happen again because of how open the area is.

According to one source who was in the Campbell Student Union, people were letting others come in and out despite being aware of the orders.

United Students Government President Jimmy Speaker, who was not on campus when it happened, described their actions as “illogical” and “troubling.”

“While I was not present in the Campbell Student Union at the time of the event, it appears clear that Student Union staff did not take the necessary precautions to enforce said shelter-in-place, given that students were allowed to freely roam the building,” he said in an email. “This is worrisome, and presents the issue of miscommunication of safety policies and procedures.”

Speaker said that even as a senior, he wouldn’t be “100 percent certain of what Buffalo State intends as a ‘shelter-in-place’ policy.”

“It’s hard to emotionally or psychologically prepare for an incident like this, though safety procedures are important,” he said. “In this age of gun violence on school campuses across the country, it may be best for Buffalo State to re-evaluate some of its gun violence safety policies, and to enforce mandatory practices such as shelter-in-place and lockdown procedures.”

According to one source, faculty did not receive training, nor do student employees receive training.

Speaker also added that students, faculty, staff and employees should be automatically enrolled into the Buff State Alert text message system.

Only students who signed up for the Buff State Alert System were notified via text, and all others were notified via email, but in some cases, it ended up in their spam box.

After the shelter-in-place was lifted, an email was sent out from SUNY Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner encouraging students to sign up for the system and that operations were to return back to normal.

Just like Speaker said, one may not be emotionally or psychologically prepared for incidents like this, but one can certainly be trained should we be under these circumstances again.

It’s mandatory for employees to take sexual harassment training, but why not mandate training for a lockdown or shelter-in-place?

What we can learn from this situation is that communication and adequate training is key in all situations, especially for those that are unforeseen.

“The United Students Government offers its support to any administrative body who would like to work together on these efforts and thank the administration, University Police Department, Buffalo Police and other law enforcement agencies for their work in ensuring the safety of all involved,” Speaker said.

Student Union employees have yet to comment and The Record is in the process of scheduling to speak with University Police to discuss the difference between a shelter-in-place and lockdown.

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