Editor's note: Digital Managing Editor Olivia Ground is an employee of Ball State Housing and Residence Life. To avoid a conflict of interest, Ground recused herself from the editing process of this staff editorial.
We are a part of the post-Columbine generation. We grew up with lockdown drills, barricaded doors and lessons on when to run or attack. Every room we enter, we look for the exit. We look for places to hide. We wonder if the textbooks in our bookbags will stop a bullet.
We shouldn’t have to wonder if our university will communicate threats promptly.
From 2000 to 2021, there were 276 casualties (108 killed and 168 wounded) in active shooter incidents at elementary and secondary schools and 157 casualties (75 killed and 82 wounded) in active shooter incidents at postsecondary institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Sandy Hook. Parkland. Virginia Tech. Uvalde. University of Texas. Nashville. Enoch Brown. The list goes on, and we remember them all.
Michigan State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some of the Daily News staff waited in fear for updates during these shootings, hoping the people we knew at each school were OK.
Last Wednesday, the University Police Department (UPD) sent out a public safety advisory email announcing the arrest of two Ball State University students involved in a firearm discharge, which took place in Noyer Complex — a dorm that can house 800 students. One of the students involved, and later arrested, was treated for a non-life-threatening, accidental gunshot wound.
The gun from the incident and a secondary firearm were found in a dorm room in Woodworth Complex. The arrest, and advisory email, came two days after the incident.
It took two days for us to know that a gun was fired in a dorm that houses up to 800 students.
This incident happened after the Sept. 16 report of a discharged firearm in Studebaker West. Through a public safety announcement, students were informed on the same day. It was concluded by UPD to not be an immediate threat.
This also transpired after a modified Glock handgun — one with a switch to turn the gun fully automatic — was found in a university dorm room in an investigation following an off-campus shooting Oct. 27. Many of us learned about the incident from local news following the release of court documentation instead of being informed by the university.
Four instances of guns in residence halls in our first semester so far. One had the potential to be fully automatic. One student sustained a gunshot wound.
The email we received last Wednesday closed with the following: “President Geoffrey S. Mearns charged Ro-Anne Royer Engle, vice president for student affairs, to establish an action group of individuals from various units on campus to proactively address campus safety. This group will work to identify both short- and long-term actions.”
Establish an action group … proactively address campus safety … work to identify actions …
It took a second gun discharge for the university to put this plan into effect. Not after Studebaker West, not after the discovery of a potentially fully automatic weapon — it took multiple safety threats for action to be taken.
When is enough enough?
After responding to the incident Tuesday, it took the university 24 hours to let students know about a bullet leaving the chamber of a gun in a building where hundreds of students live. A bullet that struck a student involved in the incident and caused them to sustain a gunshot wound.
But how long are we going to be kept in the dark? Even if UPD felt it wasn’t an immediate threat, the fact of the matter is a gun was fired in a dorm.
Why wasn’t there action after the incident at Studebaker West? How are we meant to feel safe when our university is not communicating potential threats promptly?
These are the questions many of us are asking.
Many of us have already lived through mass shootings, bomb threats and armed intruders in places we’re told we are safe.
What makes our situation at Ball State any different? When we aren’t being communicated with in a timely manner, our sense of security is fractured.
If the people in charge of our safety wait over 24 hours to tell us what is going on in the place we live, work and go to school, how can we believe they’re prepared for something worse?
So how far does it have to go?
We hope speaking out on this issue will bring attention to concrete efforts to improve emergency communication methods.
Guns on our campus can’t be the new normal, but communicating about incidents at the moment they happen should be.