Emergency preparedness is a key tenet of life that has been hammered into the general public’s heads since elementary school. Drills teach us to “stop, drop, and roll” if we happen to catch on fire. We learn to duck under desks and cover our heads if the earth starts to shake and split open. And, most importantly, we are taught how to roll our eyes and walk in huddled lines towards giant grass fields in the event of a gigantic building fire.
Oregon State University, through the cooperation of the Associated Students of Oregon State University, Oregon State Police, and the Faculty Senate, has taken it upon itself to establish a campaign on campus to combat the latest tragically common emergency, the active shooter. While this nationwide campaign had been in the works long before the Umpqua Community College shooting, it has very obviously been given a brighter spotlight over the last few weeks.
This campaign, known as “Run, Hide, Fight,” is brought to life through a variety of posters and educational workshops on campus that teach students how to be best prepared when faced with an active shooter. They are taught to “run” by seeking out clear escape routes while helping others escape, to “hide” by locating hiding places and blockading them while staying quiet, and to “fight” by being told to “fight for your life” against the shooter.
Cassie Huber, ASOSU president and a senior majoring in communications, finds the campaign to be empowering through its establishment of preparedness for students.
“There’s a lot of positive around being prepared and being able to handle these types of situations,” stated Huber. “[We’re] really showing that our university cares about what has happened and about the future and safety of our students.”
But not everyone on campus sees it that way. Some see the campaign as a promotion of fear and paranoia rather than of safety and preparedness. Concerns have been voiced both online, through public posts on Facebook, and in person, with students criticizing the campaign during a vigil held on campus late last month.
One such student, who took to Facebook to air her grievances with the campaign, is Bailey Williams, a junior majoring in botany and plant pathology. Williams initially thought the posters were a bad joke, before realizing the truth when she ran into them in each and every class.
“The posters make me feel like it’s a constant threat,” Williams explained. “I don’t feel like it solves any problems. I think it normalizes school shootings and if you just follow what the posters say you can survive the ‘fire’ with your own actions.”
Huber has heard similar complaints from the larger student body, but remains steadfast in her belief that the campaign is helpful rather than harmful.
“A lot of people have the belief that we are instilling fear on our campus by having these posters hanging everywhere as a reminder that these events are reality,” Huber said. “But I always say that we aren’t trying to instill fear, we’re trying to instill confidence. Confidence that our faculty and our students will know what to do in the future.”
Despite this, students still find themselves a bit uneasy, especially given the timing of this campaign’s big push. It may just be that the wounds of the UCC tragedy are still too raw for people to realize the worth of being prepared, but there’s something to be said about these posters and initiatives normalizing something that should be a terrible rarity.
Williams is only one student on a campus of thousands, but she says everyone she’s talked to share her sentiments. They feel uncomfortable and even a bit afraid. It’s as if campaigns like these only help to make shootings as inevitable as the natural disasters that we roll our eyes through drills for. And that’s not okay.
Williams shouldn’t have to carry a whole new set of worries into her day-to-day life.
“You don’t always have the choice to run, hide, or fight,” she said. “I don’t want to have to feel like I need to look for a hiding spot in each new classroom.”
By Nathan Hermanson