Campus Safety Policies Need to be Reassessed

Last week, a student from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) was shot and killed on campus at The Barn. Around 1 a.m., Jakier Austin allegedly shot Najee Ali Baker, and more than 45 minutes passed before students were notified that there was a shooter on campus. At this point, the shooter has not been found. 

The events of last Friday are tragic; no person should ever have to fear the possibility of an armed person attending an event on a college campus. What happened to Baker never should have occurred, and a concerning question has come from this event.

The lack of communication between University Officials and students, faculty and staff on campus is alarming — the fact that students received a text stating “Wake Alert. Armed and dangerous person reported at The Barn. Police are responding. Updates to be on Wake Alert Website,” more than 45 minutes after the shooting is worrisome — students were roaming campus, including in the direction of The Barn, for a good amount of time before being notified of anything happening.

Additionally, students didn’t even know what the person was armed with — was it a gun, a knife or another type of weapon?

My question: why did it take so long? Why were students able to walk around campus when a person had a gun and actively shot someone? Why were employees working on campus not notified of this, and had to be told by students to lockdown their buildings? Why was the University not proactive about communicating with faculty, staff and students?

Getting one text message 56 minutes after the incident and emails sporadically saying “no update” or to “seek shelter” or to “stay off campus” is not enough.

In an email sent out on Jan. 23 by President Hatch, he addressed the concerns. “The time that elapsed between the shooting and the initial notification to the campus community was too long. We are undertaking a thorough review to determine what contributed to the delay.” I appreciate Hatch admitting there is an issue, but another question is: why was this happening in the first place?

Wake Forest needs to put better lockdown policies in place, whether they be alerting the community through the intercom system, sending more frequent and faster updates to the community or implementing an entirely new policy.

What happened this past week was a tragedy; all students should be safe on our campus, regardless of if they are a Wake Forest student or are from another institution. Many students after the incident were not sure if they were safe, especially due to the lack of communication and time lag between being notified and the shooting occuring. Wake Forest needs to examine the policies surrounding violence and safety issues on campus to better protect the Wake Forest community and to make everyone aware of what is happening.