Security, students react to Illinois shootings

By ROSS LINKER | February 20, 2008

Some students question the value of a new siren and public address system Hopkins security plans to install in the wake of shootings at Northern Illinois University (NIU).

Last Thursday, NIU graduate Steven Kazmierczak opened fire in a large auditorium, killing five students before committing suicide.

"The shootings underscore the complex challenges campus security officers face in protecting the lives and property at colleges and universities across the country," said?Edmund Skrodzki, executive director of Campus Safety and Security.

The new warning system is meant to inform the campus and surrounding community that an emergency is taking place. Warnings will begin with a siren wail, followed by specific information and instructions on proper procedure.

By the end of March, the system will be installed on the roofs of Garland Hall, the Ralph O'Connor Recreation Center and Whitehead Hall.

"Engineering studies conducted by the vendor and by our own staff showed that these were the most effective locations," Skrodzki said.

Student reaction to the NIU shooting has been mixed.

"I don't feel safe at Hopkins as this type of incident could, without a doubt, happen here," freshman Matilda Livieratos said.

"The Northern Illinois shooting was a tragedy, but at Hopkins I feel safe," freshman Eddie Holzinger said.

Hopkins security has not received any calls from staff, students or parents expressing safety concerns after the shooting.

But several students questioned the effectiveness of such a system.

"People shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security and feel that sirens will fix the issue," freshman Andrew Mo said.

Freshman John Rodman said that he would prefer immediate police action rather than a campus-wide warning system.

"It's a good idea because it alerts people but it would probably cause panic. There's definitely a better system," he said.

Skrodzki felt that the University community at large should be more prepared for such a devastating scenario.

"The campus community at large needs to take personal responsibility to prepare for an emergency," he said.

Freshman Nick Krywopusk agreed. "I am a big proponent of personal responsibility and not having Big Brother hovering over me even if it is for my protection," he said.

"Security can't realistically stop this kind of event from ever happening," Holzinger said.

"Past studies have shown?that the majority of school shootings,?despite prompt law enforcement responses, were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention," Skrodzki said.

Security is still encouraging several more recent safety methods. There are currently 2,149 students and 1,315 faculty members who have signed up for the emergency alert program, which sends a text message to registered students notifying them to threats on campus. A test of the new system will take place on Feb. 27.

But Skrodzki cautioned, "There is no combination of systems that can guarantee one hundred percent success. However, the staff of Campus Safety and Security are constantly reviewing new technologies and evaluating how well they will fit our environment."

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