Gun control policy on campus

Story by Steve Fruehauf, Copy Editor

With mass shootings like the ones in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. occurring in the past year, gun control has moved front and center on the national stage. As the spring semester begins at UW-Eau Claire, some are stressing the importance of knowing emergency procedures if a shooter was on campus.

Campus Chief of Police David Sprick said it would be a mistake to assume all of the faculty, staff and students are aware of the proper procedure if an active shooter was to open fire on university grounds.

“We know there’s more work to be done,” Sprick said. “It’s extremely important given the amount of effort, time and resources we’ve expended and devoted to this.”

Eau Claire adopted its current OUT Strategy for handling a shooter on campus after the Virginia Tech shooting that claimed 32 lives in 2007. It explains five different steps on how to respond if a situation occurs.

GET OUT or RUN- The first step urges people to gain as much distance between themselves and the shooter as possible.

CALL OUT or CALL 911 encourages those involved to contact the police as soon as possible.

HIDE OUT advises those who can’t flee to find a proper hiding place.

KEEP OUT then says to lock or barricade themselves in a room if possible.

TAKE OUT – If there is any way those affiliated can either disarm or fight the shooter, the strategy says to do so.

“One of my sergeants just did a presentation as part of the staff development day and covered this strategy,” Sprick said. “We have it on the emergency procedures guide and it should be in all of the classrooms and office areas. We have a video on our website as well.”

Another way Eau Claire is trying to prepare all those affiliated with the university is through a texting program. Sprick said anyone interested in receiving emergency notifications to their phone should go to Eau Claire’s website and search ‘emergency information.’

Those interested can register their phones with the contact system that Eau Claire uses. Along with sending texts during actual emergencies, the texting system performs frequent drills to familiarize those registered of what an actual emergency message looks like.

Junior Liana Berlyn said she was completely unaware of the shooter policy and texting system on campus. While she mainly blames herself for her lack of knowledge, she said an email from the university about emergency policies would be helpful.

“It’s important to know so that in case there is a shooter we, as a whole, know what to do,” Berlyn said. “It’s more possible than we are aware of.”

Assistant Dean of Students Jacqueline Bonneville said she agrees that all university affiliates should be properly informed since school shootings don’t seem to be going away.

“Eau Claire is a very safe place,” Bonneville said, “but you can’t help but watch the news … (and) know that we all have to be vigilant in terms of being prepared as much as we can.”

She also said if a situation like this was to occur on campus and one of Eau Claire’s students was involved, the university would issue an emergency suspension. If those involved weren’t an imminent threat, she said, the university would then allow a complete judicial process. This would involve a hearing and a chance for an appeal of the ruling.

If the student’s appeal was successful, an additional committee hearing would be held. She said the police would handle anyone who wasn’t directly affiliated with the university.

Sprick said he urges anyone who sees a weapon on campus, whether it be a gun or not, to contact the police department. He said the police are properly trained and ready to handle this kind of situation at all times.