Thursday, July 20

Submission: UCLA must better educate students on active shooter protocol


As we approach the first anniversary of UCLA professor William Klug’s death, the UCLA community has an opportunity to reflect upon an experience which has become all too common in this nation.

We might expect our administration to have dedicated itself to equipping students with the necessary knowledge to handle an active shooter situation after last year’s incident.

However, the University has not done enough to educate students, though the University of California’s Office of the President has recommended comprehensive training to all UC campuses since 2008.

UCLA’s Campus Safety Task Force, established by Chancellor Gene Block in the wake of last year’s attack, affirmed the need for this commitment. It recommended that everybody on campus “receive some (training)” as to what to do in the case of an active shooter situation, for “safety in emergency situations is everyone’s responsibility – from the newest student to the Chancellor.”

We at the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Office of the External Vice President agree wholeheartedly with this recommendation, but we question the administration’s commitment to implementing it.

For example, since June 1, 2016, UCLA has hosted eight training sessions for faculty only, with a vague promise to make weekly iterations of these sessions available to students after the last scheduled meeting concluded Feb. 2. But as of April 17, nearly three months after the final faculty training, we have heard nothing of these so-called “open” sessions to educate students.

Moreover, a new administration-developed, UCLA-specific cellphone app meant to describe proper emergency responses was reportedly slated for release in January 2017. We applaud the administration for its attempts to connect with students. However, we have seen no evidence of any concerted effort to advertise or disseminate this app to its intended population.

In some cases, however, UCLA has made tangible changes to increase safety. The school has successfully installed new locks on hundreds of classroom doors and plans to distribute material on active shooter protocols to incoming freshmen starting in 2017. The school also released a new website containing detailed information on what to do in the case of a campus shooting, with a great amount of relevant information.

However, students often remain unaware of these developments: The website containing information on active shooter protocol, for example, is obscure and likely unfamiliar to the average Bruin. These advancements, though laudable, are overshadowed by the absence of impactful efforts to ensure that students have easy access to potentially lifesaving information.

The administration must make real efforts to educate students on proper procedures and protocols by requiring all current students to complete a basic online training activity about active shooter situations. Since UCLA already requires that students complete several hours of drug, alcohol and sexual assault training online before beginning classes, it should not be too much work to expand these web-based programs to cover campuswide emergencies.

But we also believe that online seminars, while convenient, are no replacement for in-person training. The administration must commit itself to make such training accessible to its thousands of students. At a minimum, the school should offer regular training sessions both off and on the Hill, perhaps in conjunction with Residential Life to ensure maximum exposure. UCLA would be doing its students a grave disservice by making no more than a token effort to include them in such vital training.

We student advocates have the ability to enact change close to home. In the past three years, two deadly incidents of gun violence have occurred on UC campuses. Though we might scapegoat the administration for neglecting to educate us in more than philosophy or neurology, we must take ownership of our own complicity.

We cannot afford to be complacent when the lives and well-being of thousands of Bruins remain at stake. We call upon the UCLA administration to take steps to make student education a priority. We must not allow another year to pass without meaningful reform when we have the power and the responsibility to advocate for it.

Jackson is a second-year political science and history student and Mendez Vargas is a second-year political science student. They are student advocates in the USAC Office of the External Vice President.

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