The notification went out at 12:23 p.m. last Monday morning, reading, “Police Activity at 610 Childs way JFF on UPC campus. Please avoid area, Shelter in place threat or danger to the USC community.” Out of all of the DPS notifications I have received, this one was different: It emphasized that there was a threat to the community.
The class that I was in had just taken a break, and I had wandered away to find some tea when my girlfriend called, frantic, to tell me to get to safety. I immediately called the teaching assistant and explained the situation to the class.
The notification went out as a shelter-in-place, but we quickly realized one glaring issue if the warning level was to be elevated to lockdown: There was no lock on the door. The only way to lock the door would be to do so from the outside, and the teaching assistant did not have the key. Additionally, the only pieces of furniture in the room were all on wheels, meaning there was nothing to adequately barricade with.
Fortunately, there was a room down the hall with a keycard lock that I had access to, so we safely sheltered in there until the lockdown was lifted — but it made me ask the question of what we would have done if that had not been an option.
Afterwards, the teaching assistant confessed that she had not had any type of formal training in what to do in a situation like this, and I realized that, formally, I did not know either. My responses were all pulled from high school drills.
This draws attention to a crucial disparity between potentially life-threatening situations and the training of what to do if they were to become a reality.
One solution to students becoming more aware of what they can do to keep themselves safe in a situation such as this is for USC to implement mandatory active shooter training. This can be completed online in a program similar to the drinking safety program titled AlcoholEdu — as proposed by Tiffany Lian and Tyler Matheson, two Undergraduate Student Government senators, in November 2016 — and the mandatory status could be enforced by a hold that is placed on registration until it is completed. This would give students an adequate incentive to get the training done, which could make the difference between life and death.
This training would be beneficial to students who have no experience with shelter-in-place or lockdown procedures, as well as explaining the nuances of the situation to students who are educated on drills that are very much fitted for the high school experience. It could explain the differences between a shelter-in-place and a lockdown, as well as explaining how college students should handle these scenarios while also being in a room with no lock, being outside between classes, and so forth.
There should also be required drill training for all teaching assistants. They are indeed students as well and cannot be held responsible for the safety of those in their class in the same manner that an instructor perhaps could, but they are frequently looked to for guidance by their students. By requiring shelter-in-place and lockdown training for teaching assistants, especially those who hold individual lab sections, they would be much better prepared for how to regulate such a situation if one were to arise.
This is not a new idea. There was an opinion piece in the Daily Trojan written about this by Jordyn Holman in 2014, titled “Schools should enforce lockdown safety drills.” Last year, Lian and Matheson tried to make training mandatory, but no such procedures have been implemented.
In the span of 24 hours, there were two very real, very terrifying wake-up calls: the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, and now this active shooter scare on our very own campus. Whether or not online safety training is the way to best prepare for such circumstances, it is time to make a change to educate our students in the best manner possible to ensure their safety.
Junior, cinema and media studies