Just over two weeks ago, a mass shooting at Michigan State University occurred on the campus, killing three and injuring five. It is about to be the third month of 2023, and over 29 incidents of gunfire have occurred on school grounds, according to Everytown Research & Policy.
Students of all ages worry that a shooting will occur on their campus, including those at Montclair State University. This recent incident raises questions about preparedness for an active shooter and the action plans the university and police have in place to keep students, faculty and staff safe.
Kieran Barrett, chief of the Montclair State Police Department, said he understands these concerns.
“For me to say it could never happen here or anywhere would be a disservice to the community,” Barrett said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to mitigating the likelihood of any act of violence on our campus. The university is prepared and has comprehensive plans for a multitude of crisis situations, including incidents of an active shooter on campus.”
Barrett also said that the university and police department provide consistent care for community members, hold training and drills for area responders, work with the state and federal partners on any incidents that can challenge the university and educate the community on what they can do to report, prevent and counteract situations of violence if they were to arise.
According to the “What If?” section of Emergency Information on the Montclair State website, “The University will send emergency alerts via the RAVE text system when a confirmed or suspected active shooter situation is imminent. The alert will include the location and sometimes where to avoid if it is known.”
There are multiple subsections in the University’s Emergency Operations plan for Active Shooters/Active Violence on campus, located on pages 78-87 titled Active Shooter/Active Violence Annex.
Under III Purpose: 4. Law Enforcement Agency, 2. “The Montclair State University Police Department will be the first responders to an actual event of an active shooter or an active threat event.”
Also located in the III Purpose section, “Three. If there is a corroborated, confirmed shooting or active violence on campus, the Montclair State University Police Department will be responsible to request additional law enforcement resources from the region.”
On pages 281-285, there are also steps on what to do during an active shooting, which include: evacuate/run if there is an accessible path, hide out if evacuation is not possible and find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Lastly, fight back as a last resort.
To read more about what to do during an active shooting situation, go to the Montclair State website and the University Police tab. You can also find more information in their 286-page University’s Emergency Operations Plan on the website.
Although Barrett said the university has comprehensive plans for crises including active shooters, many students are not sure if the university is prepared.
Ilona Soltys, a senior communication and media arts major, is one of those students.
“We are not ready,” Soltys said. “We never had that conversation before. Nobody has talked to us about it. The biggest issue is that our campus is public so anyone can come on. Security doesn’t check for IDs and who comes onto the campus.”
Visitors who come to Montclair State do not need IDs to get onto campus, but cannot access certain doors or buildings if they do not have a Montclair State ID. During school hours, though, buildings are accessible for students to go into for their classes. Many other areas are accessible to the public, including the Panera Bread inside of Susan A. Cole Hall.
Miriam Aguirre, a junior social media and public relations major, feels a bit safer because the university police station is on the campus, but she is unsure if they’d help students in distress.
“Our police are on campus,” Aguirre said. “So I feel a little safer because of that, but would they help us? Like what happened in [Uvalde, Texas]; would they help us? Do we trust the police?”
Priya Doddipalli, a freshman computer science major, thinks that the university is prepared in case there ever was an active shooter.
“I think we are ready,” Doddipalli said. “We have security guards and the police department, which are highly trained. I also think that we should have mental health seminars because they would be very useful and help students with their issues.”
If you see or hear anything that causes suspicion on campus do not be afraid to contact the university police department.