Panicked students and faculty resorted to building makeshift barriers out of desks, chairs and overhead projectors in classrooms after learning via BeachAlert that there was a “credible threat” made on campus Oct. 7.
A Long Beach State student threatened via email to “shoot up the school” and forced a campuswide shelter-in-place. This caused concern among students and faculty about their safety in classrooms when they found that many older buildings on campus couldn’t be locked from the inside.
“It’s scary,” said American studies professor Preeti Sharma. “I wasn’t on campus at the time, but the next day I checked the doors to three of my classrooms and one of them could not be locked from the inside.”
Some followed the official active shooter guidelines of wrapping a belt or power cord around the hinge to bind the door, but for many, that wasn’t “safe enough.”
The aftermath of the shelter-in-place prompted fourth-year English major Alexis Wolfe to start a petition to raise awareness about the “need to have locks in the event of such threats and/or school lock-downs.”
“We need something for the time being to create a safe space,” she said.
Wolfe said her goal for the petition is to work with the school and start a “safety movement.” She said she and two friends are working with a business to formulate an “inexpensive” locking solution to present to the administration but declined to elaborate on what the solution will be.
The petition has received almost 3,000 signatures from concerned Long Beach community members.
“I’m signing because the fear I felt today,” one signee wrote, “knowing there was a threat on campus and that our class couldn’t barricade against them was horrifying.
Many students and faculty turned to Twitter during the shelter-in-place to voice their fears and frustrations with doors on campus.
“As a student who just spent an entire class hour terrified in a lecture hall with three exits, none of which lock…an infrastructure update is needed,” third-year communications major Lily Montero tweeted.
Montero described the shelter-in-place as “emotionally taxing and terrifying.”
According to Jeff Cook, CSULB chief communications officer, the school has invested around $550,000 so far to equip teaching rooms with locks. He said all “high-density classrooms” or rooms with 60 or more seats on ground levels, will be equipped with locks by December 2019.
“Some doors on campus have been in place since the late 1950s…In the retrofitting process, doors may need to be replaced to meet current fire ratings, ADA accessibility needs, and even receive asbestos and lead-paint abatement,” Cook said.
Cook added that there are roughly 450 rooms for teaching on campus and around 100 will be completed by December, the rest “will be ongoing.” Rooms beyond the initial 100 will require additional funding, he said.
Buildings constructed or renovated after 2017 have locking capabilities, he said.
“It’s a priority for President Conoley,” he said.
Faculty have voiced their frustrations about the timeline for the new locks.
“I do not buy the argument that nothing can be done now due to the expense of making doors lockable,” said William Griswold, assistant department chair of the English department. “Rather, it sadly seems to be a matter of priorities; note that more and more administrative offices are now secured nicely with key-pad locks and other security measures. Those got funded somehow.”
The frustrations have elicited discussions in the classroom about what to do until the doors are retrofitted. Students and faculty have proposed adding cable ties to classrooms, better active shooter training and more transparency from the administration.
“Something needs to change from the president to the students,” Wolfe said. “Communication between the school and the students wasn’t good.”