Is UMassD prepared for an emergency?

Is UMassD prepared for an emergency_ by Zach Downing
By Zack Downing, Staff Writer

The gun and gun rights debate has reignited once again in the wake of yet another mass school shooting.

We all attend a public university where anyone from anywhere is allowed to roam the campus without being confronted. While The Torch is not advocating for a gate at the front of Ring Road, it is a bit disconcerting to know how little security the school has to outsiders.

College campuses are among the most targeted places for shootings and attacks in America. From the U-Tex Austin shooting in 1966 to the Virginia Tech shooting a decade ago, universities and other places of education are targets for homegrown terrorists because of their dense populations, and often because of personal vendettas.

Students around the country can be forgiven for fearing a shooter coming to their school, or even coming from their school. As we’ve found out, nowhere is safe. But how safe is UMass Dartmouth?

There are several pros and cons to the way UMass D handles safety and security, and the campus’ design itself. As mentioned before, this is a public campus, open to anyone who wants to take a walk around Ring Road or even have some food at Birch Grille. This isn’t good for security, but the bright side to that is the state of Massachusetts itself.

Gun laws here are some of the strictest in the country, requiring background checks and discouraging carrying firearms anywhere outside of a gun range. Massachusetts is no Texas; gun owners here are few and far in between.

As far as we know, the only guns on campus are where we want them, strapped to the belts of campus police.

DPS is our first line of defense in a school shooting, and while it’s good news that their station is right on campus, it still probably isn’t good enough.

In an emergency, a DPS member would take several minutes at best to reach a shooting, and those several minutes are all it takes for a tragedy to unfold.

“I think they can improve security by having security guards in each of the school buildings during school hours,” says Brendan Finegan, a junior economics major.

The class buildings, residence buildings, and dining areas have no security except the DPS station on the east side of campus. The way to get the fastest attention to a crisis would be to have a few DPS officers on patrol at any given time, stationed in high-traffic areas during the day or just doing rounds through the buildings.

As for the design of the campus, most of it was built with safety in mind. Every classroom on the ground floors has an entrance out the back, providing a quick exit during a crisis. There are emergency exits or regular exits on each side of almost every building on campus, from Chestnut to Aspen.

The building that needs to be improved is the Marketplace (or Res). Other than the little-known emergency exit on one end of the building, there’s only one main entrance and exit to the dining hall.

The smaller side on the right has no exit at all, except for the ancient elevator on the right that moves a lot slower than a bullet. It’s an unsafe design overall, whether the emergency is a shooter, a fire, or a flood.

We’re still in the era of mass shootings, and as a public learning community, we are some of the most vulnerable. Changes need to be made.

If you have any concerns about campus safety, contact DPS. Students can also bring concerns and ideas to SGA.

Photo Courtesy: Zack Downing

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