The View from a Sitting Duck

Details continue to emerge about the murder of a TA by a colleague at Purdue University yesterday. At this point, the pattern is all too familiar — the candlelight vigils, moments of silence, and the rest. However, I ran across a bit today that was new to me — accounts of Purdue faculty who kept doing their thing as the campus went on lockdown.

I guess I’m more fatalistic about these matters than a lot of folks, having learned that people can be lost to violence in what would seem the unlikeliest of places. I try to remind myself how improbable such events are and to act accordingly. At the same time, Mondoville College has a plan in place for what we call “active shooter” incidents — indeed, our campus security talks about what to do when such an event takes place, rather than if. That seems a bit like borrowing trouble to me, but I suppose it’s wise to prepare for capabilities instead of intentions.

All things considered, I’d like to think that I’ll follow the plan as best I can if the situation calls for it, despite the fact that I don’t think of my classroom as a terribly defensible position. On the other hand, back in my early years here, I remember hearing the tornado warning sirens going off during a faculty meeting on a stormy spring afternoon. The then-president (in the words of Mr. cummings, a “trig Westpointer”) didn’t stop his address to us, even as the campus pastor announced that she was heading for shelter. She was the only one who split that I recall — bright woman. We weren’t harmed, but as I grow older, I think there’s something to be said for the better part of valor.

All the same, I have to admit that there’s a part of me that admires the cavalier attitude of  those professors at Purdue. But it’s easy to admire them when neither they nor their students got shot.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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4 Responses to The View from a Sitting Duck

  1. Rai Peterson says:

    Was your president also “most succinctly bred”? I think that accounts for more narrow-mindedness than any style of education.

  2. The Nerd Girl says:

    I’ve written a section into my syllabi about what to do if the worst should happen, and always brief my students on the first day to follow my instructions, not try to be a hero, and all that. In the back of my mind I know I would give my own life if it will save theirs. I go through all this with some detachment – I’ve accepted it’s a fact of modern life, whether I like it or not – but that doesn’t stop it from chilling me to the bone, or making me profoundly sad. Not when a classroom was always a place I felt safe when I was a kid.

  3. The Ancient says:

    I knew the first victim at Virginia Tech — she’d been to our house in the country with her boyfriend. He was doing a bit of work to help his father, who worked for me for many years. On that terrible morning, her boyfriend dropped her off at the dormitory, and left to return to his own apartment not far from a nearby university.. The shooter somehow made his way into the dorm, and then up to her room. When she saw him with his gun, she screamed — effectively summoning the dorm master (or whatever he was called), who had been asleep in his own room, not far away. At which point the shooter shot her in the face at very close range. When the dorm master (or whatever) arrived seconds thereafter, he was also shot dead. He fell in such a way as to block open the door to Emily’s room.

    The inherent stupidity and racism of the campus police led them to assume — on the basis of false information regarding the boyfriend provided by another girl who lived in the dorm — that Emily’s boyfriend had guns at his immediate disposal. (In fact, all of his guns were locked up 90 minutes away.) But that mistake led the incompetent campus police — who were, again, stupid and racist — to assume the girl had been killed in a crime of passion. Why? Although she was fully dressed, the dorm master (or whatever) wore only his boxer shorts. But he had been asleep when she screamed. And he was black, and the boyfriend was white, and in the minds of the campus police, that was quite enough.

    The racism of the VT campus police allowed the shooter a free hour. maybe more, to kill many, many more people. (And I know a lot more about this than would be prudent to say.)

    I don’t understand how an ill, dying man in Texas all those years ago has metastasized into this.

  4. ricki says:

    I’ve given more of my headspace than I’d like to contemplating what I’d do. We have booklets produced by Campus Safety bungeed to the wall in every classroom and faculty office.

    I’d hope that if a shooter situation hit, I’d be in one of the lab rooms: they have reinforced prep rooms that could double as tornado shelters, even. (Then again: were teaching lab, I wouldn’t have the computer on, and unless a student had one of their (technically supposed to be OFF) cell phones on – I’d never know.)

    The problems, as I see ’em, are threefold: first, people of college age tend to be in situations where either the onset of mental illness or VERY bad decision-making (without a lot of perspective) can lead to things escalating to a danger point. Second, the fact that too many of these sad-sacks get their fifteen minutes of fame after taking out productive citizens. And third, that it’s hard to have defenses on campus. (A great many of my students, to be honest, I’d totally trust to concealed-carry on campus. A few I most definitely would NOT. But as has been said: the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.)

    The other problem? Campus forces get twitchy and start locking down over things like backfiring construction equipment or oddly-dressed people.

    I hope that the campus shootings stop, or at least slow down precipitously. And that they do so before every campus in this nation is a fortress that you have to go through an x-ray machine and metal detector to enter…

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