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nothing to see here…

5 March, 2008
tags: ,

Last night my abnormal psych professor breezed in five minutes late asking us what the deal was with the crime scene tape and cop car in front of the Krumm building. One girl said that they weren’t telling anyone what was going on, just that classes were cancelled in that building. We carried on until awhile later when we took a break and some curious students went to check out what was happening. They came back reporting that there was a bomb squad at the building that was about a half of a block away. Quite comforting, let me just say.

I found out today that there was a suspicious object found in the lobby area of the building and they evacuated it at about 5:30. They sent campus-wide emails out right away, and then cancelled classes for the evening in that building only. The Des Moines Police Department’s “hazardous object response unit” was called out (aka the bomb squad) and it turned out to be a homemade carrying case for art supplies. I guess the student to whom it belonged left it behind by mistake and was tracked down. The building remained closed for the night, and there were no police or anyone there when I drove by after 8.

Overall I think the school handled things as well as they knew how, except…I have a problem with one aspect of things. Those of us that were sitting in a building attending classes did not have immediate access to our email. We had no idea what was going on, and I think that they could have sent someone around to inform us of what was happening. I think that their response by evacuating the building, cancelling class and keeping people informed through email was good, but it could have been better.

Personally, I’d like to know that there is a suspicious package a half a block away in another school-owned building. Honestly, that’s not that far away if it was really and truly a bomb. I don’t know that I would have necessarily left campus immediately or anything, but moving our class to a building further away would have been a nice touch. Also, what about the people who had classes in the Cowles building right next door? Or the dorms that were also half a block away? Were they all really informed by a campus-wide email, or were they at least told what was going on? The reason this worries me is with everything that’s been going on at this country’s colleges and universities, I would have expected a more thorough system to have been in place. Grand View is a small school. I can’t imagine what it’s like to wonder about the procedures at a huge university.

Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing. But from the tone of an email sent out by the college president, it doesn’t seem like any new policies are being considered. He congratulated the staff, campus security, and the Des Moines Police Department on their response to the situation. He said that we need to all be vigilant in order to ensure campus safety. But he didn’t comment on the fact that NO ONE ELSE KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING BECAUSE AN EMAIL ISN’T AN EFFECTIVE TOOL OF COMMUNICATION TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE A COMPUTER IN FRONT OF THEM.

It’s sad that today colleges and universities need to have plans of action for when incidents occur. But the fact is that we needed to know what was happening, and if anyone in my class would have wanted to leave campus having that knowledge, I wouldn’t have criticized them for a second. Nice effort, Grand View…but it wasn’t enough to make me feel safe.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. libby permalink
    5 March, 2008 12:35 pm

    I totally agree. Our class found out because a students friend text her, but that was two hours after the e-mail was sent out (and we aren’t supposed to text in class). While the police were still there I easily drove to the library (100 ft from evacuated building) and there were lots of students inside.

    A coworkers son goes to Drake and she has what I consider to be a good idea, especially for smalled campuses like Drake and Grand View. Why don’t we have some sort of alarm, like a fire alarm or tornado alarm, and have a plan that goes with it. i.e. Alarm sounds, suspicious person on campus. Lock classroom or go to safe area asap. Alarm sounds, suspicious object, evecuate asap. Or even loudspeakers. I don’t want to insite panic, but that seems like the fastest way to communicate with everyone on campus.

  2. 5 March, 2008 1:05 pm

    We just made our emergency broadcast system live here, which has the ability to go to email, cellphone (voice and text), and landlines.

    Costs a pretty penny, though.

  3. 5 March, 2008 1:08 pm

    And, just to make a comment about what Libby says: Depending on the
    situation, sometimes you don’t want to draw more audible attention to the
    crisis at hand, which is why we’re using the broadcast system we’re using.
    We of course are now realizing that having 15000 cell phones going off at
    once (vibrating makes noise too) is a definite call of attention.

  4. 5 March, 2008 2:52 pm

    The only thing that I know is that something needs to be done. I agree that some alarms or loudspeakers could have adverse effects on the situation. However, we all could have been in serious danger last night and we never would have known it until the bomb literally went off.

    I hate to be one to complain without a solution, though. Grand View is small–a total of less than 2,000 students. There are far less than that on campus in the evening, too. There must be something.

  5. libby permalink
    5 March, 2008 3:25 pm

    I don’t really have a solution either, but I know that using cells phones and e-mail in class is not really an option here. Do some students? Yes, of course. Did my instructer last night tell our class that if he saw us using our phones in class he would smash it against a rock? Yes. Hmmm….doesn’t seem like text and e-mail are the most reliable method then…

  6. 5 March, 2008 7:07 pm

    They can always do better. Always.

  7. Justine permalink
    5 March, 2008 7:40 pm

    The recent events (including this one and the one at Northern Illinois…a stone’s throw from my house) are so disturbing. Makes me wonder what it will be like in 15 years when Shaelin goes to college. Perhaps a new president will think of something!

  8. 6 March, 2008 8:39 am

    Libby: You know, I mentioned how email wasn’t an effective communication to keep people informed who were in class, and the professor I have for seminar said that he felt it informed those who needed to be and that things went fine. Whatever.

    Hoss: Exactly!

    Aunt Tine: It’s crazy to think about it. I was in junior high and high school when shootings started becoming more common in schools, and now I’m in college when suddenly university campuses become targets. It’s really hit home for me. It really does make you wonder what school will be like for our children and their children, too.

  9. libby permalink
    6 March, 2008 10:25 am

    I agree e-mail is good for warning students not on campus, if they check it regularly. It is not a good system for students already on campus (who are probably in the most danger).

  10. 6 March, 2008 12:14 pm

    That’s exactly my point. You and I were in more danger than the people who had left campus for the day. But that point seems to escape that particular professor, and from the sound of it the president of the college.

  11. Llama Momma permalink
    6 March, 2008 12:25 pm

    did you change the title of this? glad you are safe!

  12. 6 March, 2008 12:25 pm

    Yes, I did. Me too!

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