Photo courtesy of Wikipedia/Lucio Eastman
When I was a freshman at CUSTOMS, the last thing I was concerned about was campus safety. Like everyone else, I was just busy working myself up about scheduling and arriving an hour early to my classes so I could easily find my classrooms. I had never gone to public school, and the first time I saw my English 2030 professor swipe his ID to open our COE classroom, I was taken aback. The first thought that came to mind was that the school was concerned with theft and that was the reason most rooms locked after a certain amount of time once a class ended.
Things may have changed for freshmen since 2013, but back then I don’t remember anyone discussing this security function at all. Just like no one mentioned that some classrooms have pull-down levers (not unlike fire-alarms) which perform some function that I assume would ensure that the classroom door is locked, as most should be during a class period except for the few that do not. I only just learned about these levers last semester at the end of my junior year.
In the mean time, I came to the realization that, whether it was intended or not, the locked door situation was a security benefit. Around that same time it began to bother me when I would see my professors would prop the door open. Everything from a lack of education from the start and little to no communication from faculty to students on the course of actions to take in the event of an emergency frustrates me to this day.
It’s true that campus crime usually takes the form of assault, rape, armed robbery and theft, but college campuses do have their fair share of gun violence. According to the 2015 MTSU Annual Security Report (Clery Act/HEOA), Middle Tennessee saw a reduction in weapons violations in the 2012 to 2014 time period, from seven total on-campus arrests to none. Although we cannot determine how many of these reports involved guns per se, cases of aggravated assault also dropped from 15 on-campus cases in 2012 and four in 2014.
We may not have one of the most dangerous campuses in Tennessee, or in the U.S. as a whole, but a zero-gun tolerance in university laws have helped keep us safe. However, earlier this summer, MTSU enacted a new Tennessee Campus Carry Law, allowing full-time MTSU employees with valid permits to carry concealed handguns on campus property. The decision has drawn the support and ire of many, since our nation is seemingly on the cusp of an arms crisis, with a divide between those who believe the addition of more guns puts us in more dangerous and those who think the presence of weapons with safe individuals would be useful in a time of need.
Whether faculty being allowed to carry concealed weapons will make us safer or put us in more danger is yet to be seen, since quite a few professors are adamantly opposed to the new law.
According to University Police crime logs for August 2016, five incidents of aggravated assault have already been reported so far this semester, although they did not result in arrests. Larceny and non-violent theft continue to be two of the most common reported incidents, but there is a growing uneasiness on college campuses among students and faculty alike who are wary of the new law that makes gun access somewhat easier.
Education and awareness on the issue of gun violence is essential for personal safety. There is such a thing as illegal profiling, but in specific situations most people can be observed to determine if the individual is carrying a concealed weapon or not. Often this includes guns being carried in shirt sleeves, under waistbands and in the sides of baggy jeans and pants.
It’s important to note that when you suspect someone of carrying a gun, you may be right or wrong. Some of the most obvious behavioral signs of a concealed-gun are a person who walks with a stiff gate, so as to not show the outline of a shotgun or rifle, or someone who doesn’t swing or bend their arms when walking.
But these actions can easily be attributed to a physical disability of some kind and surely aren’t proof. Determining if someone has a weapon requires attention to not just their physical actions but also their mental or emotional state. A person carrying a concealed weapon is more likely to show signs of nervousness than someone who is simply injured or has a disability. For more information on how to spot someone who is carrying a concealed weapon, visit here.
Open communication between faculty and students can go a long way in easing students’ fears and keeping everyone safe. If you have a security concern, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your professor. They may not realize that you have these concerns, and you may not be the only one in your class who does.
If your professor doesn’t address safety in the first class session, ask them about what the class might need to do in the event of an emergency. There may be a protocol in place that students need to know. For reference, my English professor last semester told the class that in the event of an emergency she would need to pull the lever to lock the classroom door, and that only if she were somehow incapacitated would one of us students need to do it.
Wisdom is the application of knowledge, and with more safety education and awareness of the issues college students face — including sexual assault, mental health concerns and drug abuse — we can keep striving to make MTSU a safer campus and reduce the impact that a rare emergency situation may have.
This is part four of the four-part Freshman Safety Series by Digital Editor Sara Snoddy. The series addresses the issues of sexual assault, mental health issues/suicide prevention, drug abuse and gun safety with special consideration to incoming freshman and transfer students.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.