Better Safe Than Sorry: The Inadequacy of Stern’s Active Shooter Training

By: Kira Paley  |  April 19, 2018

When I attended orientation before beginning classes at Stern my first semester, in August 2016, I regarded the active shooter training session as the most important hour of the entire weekend. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012, as a student I have been paranoid about a shooting taking place at my school and therefore have always taken active shooter training gravely seriously. Back in high school, I would become frustrated with my classmates when they would giggle and send Snapchats during lockdown as I huddled in the corner imagining the lockdown drill was real.

I was equally disenchanted, though, with the active shooter training, or lack thereof, at Stern. Though technically mandatory, the room was only half-full and some of my friends asked me to sign them in so they did not have to go. Even worse, as I watched the generic video meant to “train” us regarding what to do in the event of an active shooter on campus, the students that actually did show up were chatting, on their phones, and making fun of the video. The training seemed more like an attempt to satisfy orientation requirements than an attempt to ensure students’ safety in the event of an emergency. And it wasn’t just the active shooter training session that was lazy; I remember being shown another generic, watered-down, cheesy video about sexual consent in what was probably the school’s fulfilling of training their students in sexual consent.

Nonetheless, I fixed my eyes to the screen and attempted to take the session as seriously as I possibly could. But in retrospect, I now realize how dismaying not only the students’ attitude about the training was, but also the quality of the training in general. There were security personnel present, and I vaguely remember them speaking about general campus safety procedures. The actual training in terms of what to do if there was an active shooter in the building was limited to the video that was shown, however, and though the video was informative, it was generic and not specific to the Beren campus. I suppose that the “run, hide, fight” principle can be applied to any building or campus, but nonetheless specific training tailored to our buildings and campuses, and specifically created for YU would be useful and is necessary.

After that, and in my almost four semesters as a YU student, there has been little to no further training for students in active shooter procedure. Sure, each classroom has a poster delineating the procedure, but if there were an actual shooter in the building, I speculate that there would be so much chaos and fear that reading a poster would not be peoples’ first instinct. Since I started YU in 2016, there has not been a single lockdown drill. Granted, it is doubtful that there is a time when all of the students and faculty are on campus so that a lockdown drill would train everyone. Nonetheless, a Beren campus lockdown drill during a weekday morning or early afternoon could guarantee that at least a few hundred students and faculty would benefit from a lockdown drill.

I do not know enough about the security department at YU to criticize them or speculate how well equipped they are to deal with an active shooter. My purpose is to criticize the way students at YU, specifically on the Beren campus, are trained, or rather not trained, in what to do in the event of an active shooter on campus. I also urge my fellow students to regard serious issues like active shooter training with the utmost of gravity.