Students and faculty at Montclair State University crowded around the School of Communication and Media (SCM) this morning to show their support for stricter gun laws and more security on campus. This is in the wake of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
At approximately 10 a.m., students and faculty marched out of the building for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 victims in Parkland and were greeted by speeches and demonstrations led by film professor, Karl Nussbaum, wearing a bright pink hat.
The mass was joined by a separate march that started at the Student Center. There were no signs or chants being said, but students were walking in solidarity to protest gun violence and commemorate lives lost in the Florida shooting.
Student Vanessa Casella walked with her two friends from class who all got permission from their professor to come to class late.
“If college students can walk out, it shows to elementary school students and younger that we support all schools and education,” the freshman filmmaking major said. “Education should be a safe place. It shouldn’t be scary to go to school for children.”
Alyssa Smolen also participated in the walk for her own reasons. With two school teacher relatives, the thought of potential danger reaching them put her in an uncomfortable mindset.
“My mom is not the kind of person that I want carrying a gun, nor is my brother,” Smolen said. “My mom went to school to teach children and my brother went to school to teach music, not to stand in front of a class and hold a gun when they’re not in the military.”
Many high schools, like Montclair High School, organized an event and were prepared for a walkout. However, according to some students and faculty, there was not much hype about Montclair State’s participation.
“Not one student has emailed me saying I’m not going to be in class,” said associate professor of justice studies Jessica Henry. “I haven’t seen anything anywhere.”
Henry supported the idea of a protest and hoped students would walk out of her class at 10 a.m., but she had no missing students and no walkouts occurred.
Some students were in the dark about the walkout or had heard rumors through social media, like junior computer science major Khari Foster and junior business management major Nick Capote.
A group of students hung out outside of the Feliciano School of Business during the walkout, as they had not known about the demonstration happening across campus.
“I’m not a fan of massive social movements,” said one of the students, senior English major Lawrence Gilmore. “I’m more ‘just do it your own way.’”
Faculty was involved in the walkout to march as well as speak at the SCM. Karl Nussbaum was joined by professors with a passion for this cause including communications professor and Vietnam War veteran Dr. Harry Haines.
“We’re exposing children all across this country to the kind of trauma that combat veterans bring back with them from war zones,” Haines said.
Student reporters traveled to different schools and used #njwalkoutwatch on social media.
Marching along with Haines were students who are in favor of stricter gun laws and want to see a change in legislation, including Molly Jenkins, a sophomore communication and media arts major.
Jenkins was 2 years old and lived in Colorado when the Columbine shooting happened. Her sister was on lockdown for about 10 hours.
“The fact that nothing has happened between 1998 and 2018 is not okay,” Jenkins said.
Coinciding with the walkout, Director for the Center of Student Involvement Mariel Pagan stationed herself at a table in the SCM to help students register to vote.
“Right now, there are a lot of students with an opinion on the issue of gun violence and want to feel like they can do something,” Pagan said.
Sahar Hashemi, a freshman political science major agrees that the next generation needs to help make a difference concerning gun control.
“We need a change, we’ve seen these shootings happen,” Hashemi said. “Enough is enough. If we go out and vote and we protest, we can make a difference.”
Despite the Student Government Association (SGA) not having organized the walkout, their president attended to show support for the students on campus.
“This protest today is meant to take a stance on gun violence and gun regulation,” said SGA president Yousef Al-Khudairi. “Just a concerned human being and just someone who also is in charge of the safety of 16,000 students.”
University president Dr. Susan Cole also spoke about the walkout in an email.
“I am proud of our students for peacefully expressing their views on the extremely important issue of gun control,” Cole said in a written statement.
Students of the School of Communication and media covered the walkout from different local high schools.