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In the hours since last Thursday’s shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Lane has struggled to find its position.
“I don’t know what the answers are,” Lane Board of Education Chair Tony McCown said during an address at the vigil held at Lane on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 for Umpqua Community College. McCown, who experienced a similar tragedy at his high school 17 years ago, shifted his message into a call for gun regulation. “I urge you to heed [President Obama’s] advice,” said McCown. “Our hopes and prayers are not enough.”
Within minutes, Interim V.P. of Academic and Student Affairs Dawn DeWolf brought the ceremony back to neutral ground. “Our sympathy,” DeWolf said, “our prayers, our caring is enough for now.”
According to V.P. of College Services Brian Kelly, every community college in Oregon has fallen under intense media scrutiny since Thursday. “I’ve been getting several hundred emails a day,” Kelly said in a phone interview with the Torch.
Kelly’s response so far has been one of quiet tact. “I feel Lane is a very safe campus,” he recites. “Every day, every hour of the day, there is a public safety officer on campus. We have 35 officers who rotate shifts.” As to how many officers are typically on campus at a time, Kelly declined to answer.
Public Safety Chief Jace Smith takes a more active stance. “I don’t think the students and staff understand how dangerous and complex this job can be,” Smith said. Chief Smith, who commanded police during his time in law enforcement, is an adamant proponent of armed campus officers. “The nature of the threat environment is changing,” Smith explained. “We get reports with frequency that someone has a gun on campus, and when we go to respond to those threats; we’re unarmed.”
In Oregon, firearm legislation is highly divisive. “I do want a gun,” an anonymous Lane student told the Torch while attending at the UCC vigil. “I want to be able to take that threat out so I can live and change that balance.”
Many disagree. “It’s about changing the culture of violence we have,” said Early College and Career Options student Sky Scott-Rust. “I support the campus being gun-free.”
Few students are aware of Lane’s current firearm policies. “College and board policy prohibit firearms on campus,” said Brian Kelly, “except in accordance with the lawful carry.”
In other words, if it’s legal to carry in Oregon the board can’t stop it. Despite media assertions of UCC as a ‘gun-free zone,’ Oregon is one of seven states with a statewide provision that mandates the permitted carry of firearms on college campuses. “Obviously, students, faculty and staff have concerns,” Lane President Mary Spilde said in an Oct. 2 interview with KUGN radio. “That’s why we’ve offered our counseling services.”
What students can agree on is a need for safety education. “Some kind of classes are needed, just to educate people,” said ECCO student Kirah Knee. “They don’t teach us anything at all,” added another, who declined to be named. SafeLane and the Public Safety Department have online resources detailing response to an active shooter, but Kelly explains that more must be done to get the information into student hands.
Some instruction, in the form of ‘Emergency Quick Reference Guides,’ is posted throughout the campus. The guides give emergency plans for medical emergencies, severe weather, fire, and general evacuation, but give no mention of lockdown or active shooter protocol. The guides also provide a link to additional online information, but as of this publication that link results in a 404 error.
Shooter-specific guidelines are available online. SafeLane features training videos, including one produced by the Department of Homeland Security, which follows the “Run, Hide, Fight” plan. The website, however, is incomplete. As of publication, the page titled ‘Survival Tips,’ displays only the words “content under review.”
“In terms of educating the students at our campus, we can always do more,” Kelly concludes. “I think it’s a continual process, and that we have to engage in that work every day.” Following Last Thursday morning’s events at UCC, Lane’s Facebook page was quick to reach out in condolence. Whether the grieving and reopened dialogue on safety will lead to concrete change, only time will tell.
*Some identities have been redacted for this article because the source was a minor.