The state of Michigan is mourning as it comes up on the first anniversary of the gunman who took three students’ lives at Michigan State University. After that tragic day, the community was promised several campus safety and security upgrades to address any faults or lapses in response time and effectiveness.
However, the university is still behind on implementing some of the most vital measures it’s promised thus far, drawing concern from the community, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“For me, before I can list other changes that need to be made, I want the university to complete the items they said they would, such as improvements in alert enhancements, among others,” MSU student body president Emily Hoyumpa told the Free Press on Thursday. “I hope the university makes an effort and continues to listen to students, faculty, staff and the community concerns to understand what needs to be fixed.”‘
Tragedy can strike a college or university in a matter of moments, and most casualties occur in a three-minute window, according to the FBI. Despite the swiftness with which these events can occur, institutions have been slow to update their security systems, frustrating vendors who believe higher education leaders are letting practical campus solutions run right through their fingertips.
“It’s kind of weird to think that customers are buying a system they hope they never use,” says Kendra Noonan, the director of communications for Shooter Detection Systems, “but the forward-thinking ones know it’s going to be there if the worst happens.”
While police arrived on the scene two minutes after the initial 911 call, it took 10 minutes for MSU to dispatch an emergency alert to campus community members. By that point, the shooter had already left his second shooting location and was leaving campus.
Shooter Detection System sensors pick up a gunshot’s acoustic and infrared signals, pinpoint the shot’s location, and automatically alert law enforcement and first responders without the need for a 911 call, saving valuable time; the average 911 call takes 75 seconds from dialing to providing dispatch with enough information. Similarly, K12 districts and college campuses that use the SafeDefend Personnel Protection System automatically trigger law enforcement when clients attempt to gain access to an emergency storage kit in the event of an active shooter.
“These events are over so quickly that they need instantaneous alerts,” says Noonan.
Why schools cannot stall on upgrading their security technology
A plethora of data and events point to how K12 and higher education campuses still need the most up-to-date security systems.
Hate crime is on the rise in the U.S., and the most common scenes of student assault are happening in the K12 and higher education space. On the K12 side, the rate of school shootings is similar to that of last year. In higher education, a fatal shooting occurred at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, in December, and HBCUs are facing a spate of gun violence.
What’s inhibiting leaders from implementing new measures
Noonan believes that what slows down universities from adopting state-of-the-art technology is multifold.
She believes that some universities are satisfied with the work of their campus law enforcement. “I’ve always wondered why schools aren’t as interested as they should be. There is a mindset. Some law enforcement loves the technology while others think they have it handled and don’t necessarily think they need sophisticated security technology.”
Because colleges are confident in their available resources, university grant writers rarely prioritize security funding. Instead of focusing on mitigation, most universities are focused on prevention; for example, they are concentrated on the current mental health epidemic prevalent on college campuses.
“The federal government is setting the tone for the states on funding, but it’s really important for schools to recognize that shooting incidents aren’t going away and that they need a multi-layered approach,” says Noonan.
The Biden Administration pumped another $100 million as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) to address college mental health.
While the K12 level also has access to the BCSA, the problem is a bit more complicated. Burdensome bureaucratic pipelines, regulations and political plays are restricting federal money from reaching the most in-need districts. Despite Congress approving up to one billion in aid for K12, only 38 districts had received any money in the following nine months Education Week reported on the topic.