Today's topic, boys and girls, is public safety.
Since the Virginia Tech shootings, we at Zenith have been in receipt of several emails assuring us that:
1. Students have been reminded of the counseling services available to them. (I already feel safer. Thank you.)
2. Zenith "has a preparedness plan" for a life-threatening crisis, which includes giving us as-yet-mysterious information via the web, email, cell phone, and text messaging. Zenith will also "work through the Residential Life staff to get the word out in person." This last means, I think sending the deans and other administrators running around the campus to tell us what horrible thing is happening, hopefully on the other side of the campus.
3. Zenith has sent out a second email ascertaining that they have our correct email and cell phone numbers. How *did* they get my cell phone number? Scary.
Apparently Zenith Public Safety has also been working with Homeland ("You're doing a great job, Brownie") Security and Middletown's Finest (don't even start) to prepare an emergency drill. I have never seen anyone drill, and I have never been asked to drill, but apparently there is a drill. Most of us just don't know what it is. But if something bad happens, a Dean who has already been drilled will come and reveal the drill. And then, presumably, we can relax.
I'm not saying they don't mean well. But it does strike me as evidence that we are missing the boat here on so many levels. The Virginia Tech lessons seem to be that: we can't prepare for mass murder carried out by an amoral lunatic; people will get guns whether there are restrictive laws or not; students who are deranged will be the last to seek counseling on their own; and communication is never perfect, particularly since people have to decide when and what to communicate. And if you can communicate with your students and faculty, what do you tell them that won't cause mass panic and make them either clump in classrooms and dorms where they are easier to kill in large numers, or send them running around campus where they might be going *towards* danger?
Finally -- if only the people in charge know what the drill is, how are we supposed to know how to obey when we are all scared off our nut? Because they will just shout at us? And what if no one shows up to tell you what to do? They don't have a dean for every classroom, or even every building. Yet. And when was the last time you saw a faculty member take a direct order from an administrator? (Dean: "Please stay in your classroom and hide under the desk." Faculty member: "Has this been voted on by a constituted quorum of the Faculty Senate? I think not.")
As for the messages I would be getting as all my electronic devices go off: thanks for getting in touch but -- what's the word, Bird? "Wacko roaming campus with guns. Stay inside. Or outside if the wacko comes inside." I knew this already.
Frankly, I got much better advice from the comments on my blog: pile furniture against the door and slow the motherf***er down. Be discouraging, so s/he goes next door to Anthropology or Admissions. Fight like hell if trapped. Protect your students first. Jump out the windows and run really, really fast. If I recall from the movies, should someone really be shooting, zig zag a little.
And don't carry a gun unless you are trained to use it and have a permit. Fortunately this is not a problem for Utah public school teachers who have had the opportunity since last October to use some of their in-service training for a free class that will help qualify them for concealed weapons permits. Woo-hoo!
Wouldn't you feel safer if *your* teacher was packing? Don't look at me: at Zenith, we will be whacking people over the head with our Blackberries and Treos.