A member of the Shippensburg University faculty Monday voiced concerns regarding the SU administration’s response to Sunday night’s shooting that left one person dead and another in critical condition.
Kara Laskowski, a human communication studies professor and the president of the SU Chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), said the university missed an opportunity to provide information to the community.
“The university is understandably in a difficult position,” Laskowski said.
She explained that the Pennsylvania State Police dictate when and what information is released to the public.
“We’re all very sensitive to the fact that the university cannot engage in reporting on those events,” Laskowski said.
However, Laskowski shared her and others’ frustrations with the timeline of response by the university.
The original SU Alert went out to the campus community at 9:06 p.m. saying that the shooting had occurred and to avoid the area. A second alert went out at 11:18 p.m. saying that police reported no immediate threat to the public at the time. However, during the PSP press conference at the scene Sunday night, Lt. Mark A. Magyar, commander of the state police Criminal Investigation Section, said anytime there is a random shooting there is a danger to the public until the suspects are in custody.
Laskowski said, “There’s been some expression of concern, certainly about the university’s lag time of about 12 hours between initial reports and when the university issued a statement.
“The university missed an opportunity to simply provide some reassurance to members of the community,” she said.
She noted that all information may not be immediately available, however the university could have reminded its community of its resources.
“I think going forward, the university has an obligation to the community and all of our constituents — our students, the staff and faculty and the local surrounding community as well as the parents of our students and beyond,” she said.
Laskowski said she “could be sympathetic” to the idea that SU is in a difficult situation, but she believes there is a still a void.
“When there is a void of information, people fill it with rumors,” she said.
Laskowski said she saw on social media that people were making comments about the race of the victims of the shooting.
“Gun violence is something that happens in communities of all sizes and all colors and all of our students belong here,” she said. “They are all welcome here and they will all be supported by our faculty no matter the color of their skin. If anyone takes an event like this and tries to use it as justification for their own racism, that is an indictment only on that person.”
Laskowski also noted that stories can spread much more quickly today in the digital age than when she was in college.
“You would have to wait for the newspaper or the 11 o’clock news,” she said.
Laskowski said some of the high schools involved in the Ship Start program opted not to send their students to campus due to security-related concerns. She also said multiple faculty members had indicated that students were not attending class.
Laskowski said she opened her introductory-level class today by asking students if they should talk about what was going on.
“On one hand, this [situation] is scary and it’s happening right here. On the other hand, your generation has grown up with active shooter drills — they are almost numb to the idea,” Laskowski explained.
She noted that she thinks there is a desire for normalcy among students.
“The safety and well-being of our students is paramount,” Laskowski said. “It is our intent as faculty to support students however they need right now. I would strongly encourage any student who felt any degree of upset or concern or fear to reach out and get support.”