1000-plus professors may not know what to do during a campus shooting


Credit: Creative Commons

By: Rebecca Panico | Published October 22,2015

About 1000 Kean University adjuncts — part-time professors who teach the majority of classes on campus —are not paid nor required to take training for what to do in the event of an active shooter on campus.

Additionally, it is unclear if Kean’s full-time professors are required to take emergency preparedness training.

The information comes in the wake of the latest campus shootings in the United States. A shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon left 10 dead, including the gunman, in early October. Eight days later, a gunman entered Arizona’s Northern University, killing one and injuring three.

RELATED: Campus lockdown at Kean alarms students

According to the former head of the adjunct union, Dr. Kate Henderson, whose contract was not renewed this year, Kean’s adjuncts are invited to take professional development workshops, though they do not attend for a number of reasons.

“For some adjuncts it is a waste of their time, especially since they do not get paid to attend as their full time counterparts,” she stated in an e-mail on Oct. 14. “Second, many adjuncts teach at other institutions, or have a full time job causing scheduling conflicts. Still others care for their family, and the list of excuses goes on.”

Full-time professors, which fall 2014 data marks at 398, are required to take workshops, though two university spokespersons – Margaret McCorry and Susan Kayne – were unsure if active shooter workshops were mandatory. Some full-time professors object to whether or not they’re even “paid” to attend workshops, since they attend when school is not in session.

According to professors, some workshops are mandatory, like sexual harassment and ethics courses, although the seven professors The Tower spoke to were unsure if the safety workshop was mandatory.

A trip to the office of Professional Development – which organizes workshops twice a year to professors on subjects including the active shooter class – revealed that it was no longer in use and closed.

The closure of the office has created a “crisis” according to Dr. James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, which is a union that represents full-time professors and staff.

“How it’s being handled now is a great mystery to everyone,” he said, adding that though the office is closed, the department still exists.

Schedules posted online show that the Kean University Police Department held a workshop titled “Building Community: Wide Efficacy for Public Safety” in January, while the most recent Professional Development schedule from May did not list it. When The Tower spoke to professors, many were unsure if it was offered.

At an Oct. 13 meeting for the Faculty Senate – which makes recommendations regarding faculty and student affairs to the administration – several professors admitted that they didn’t know what to do in an active shooter situation.

Of the five students The Tower spoke to, all could only surmise what to in the event of an active shooter on campus. All students interviewed by The Tower did not know the protocol was explained in the Emergency Management Quick Reference Guide online at kean.edu/police.

“How would we know what to do?” said Peighton Bryan, 21, and a senior theater major while selling cupcakes on campus. “It might be up online but who is going to look that up?”

During the recent Faculty Senate meeting, the committee discussed having escape plans posted in each classroom and installing locks on classroom doors.

But the issue of locks becomes a complicated one.

While some students and professors The Tower spoke to said they’d feel safer having locks, others said it would create a distraction during class as late students straggle in or need to use the bathroom.

In an interview on Oct. 12 where two of Kean’s spokespersons were present, Kean Police Lieutenant Vincent Kearney and Acting Director of Public Safety Ana Zsak explained that having locks on doors would not be very effective in an active shooter situation.

“It might add to your perception of safety, but the actual amount of safety that it gives is arguable. And again, it’s not the decision of anyone sitting at this table how the facilities are built or maintained,” said Kearney, later adding that a gunman could get past a lock with “one blast with a shotgun at close range.”

Kearney and Zsak also explained that each active shooter event is unique and complicated.

“The only thing that remains consistent about these events in the United States is that every shooter acts different,” Kearny said. “The best medicine for this is not to deal with it when the person pulls out the gun: it’s to stop them before they ever get to that point.”

To make an anonymous tip to Kean Police call (908) 737-4800. A new mobile phone app, called ELERTS, can also alert campus police to suspicious activity, though it’s not anonymous. To register for Campus Alerts, which sends text message blasts during an emergency, visit kean.edu/campusalert.

Rebecca Panico may be reached at panicore@kean.edu. Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.

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