It’s hard to say, really. That is, whether I feel safe or not. Don’t mistake me; I am aware of the fact that we have a Department of Public Safety, who dutifully stand guard at Bryant’s only point of entry, weeding out the occasional adult beverage or unauthorized piece of furniture. And I am very much aware of the [what felt like] daily fire drills, as I can remember many a blissfully silent night in my dorm room, which were, on occasion, abruptly interrupted with the blaring, piercing, unyielding beeps from Hall 15’s many fire alarms. I know that these things exist and that they are present on this campus to protect and ensure the safety of all who call Bryant University their home or place of work.
But there’s a list containing places that have so many things in common with Bryant. And that list includes a few statistics – statistics that, while unfathomable in our minds to ever be beset by, are very telling of the reality that we so easily dismiss as simple impossibilities. Because, deep in our circles of perceived realness, we so desperately cling to the belief of our infallibility, our resilience, and our luck.
Virginia Tech, 2007: 33 killed, 23 wounded. Northern Illinois University, 2008: 6 killed, 21 wounded. University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014: 6 killed, 14 wounded. Umpqua Community College, 2015: 10 killed, 9 wounded. And now, Ohio State University, November 28, 2016: A student took to campus with a knife and stabbed 11 fellow students before being killed. These school’s students believed beyond all belief that what did transpire could never have happened to their school.
Sometimes the unimaginable occurs in the most unthinkable of locations. And while we take pause and honor the unnecessary, troubling loss and threatening of life that occurs on college campuses across the nation, it provokes thought. Will Bryant be marred by such an attack? Is the Bryant campus equipped to deal with such a threat? Do we have the resources available to fend off those who wish to impose undue harm on anyone on this campus?
As one can imagine, while most students’ thoughts do not stem down this morose path, it is absolutely a concern of the Department of Public Safety. It is their duty to protect and defend the students of Bryant University. However, a gunman cannot be fended off by a gun-less officer, and DPS officers do not have any firearms. The most they can do is be an efficient liaison between the students at large and the emergency response services; a liaison that can summon the fearless men and women of the Smithfield Police Department to campus within two to five minutes. But a lot can happen in the span of five minutes. In five minutes, over one hundred people’s lives were forever altered, or even ended, by a gunman in an Orlando night club. In five minutes, a gunman opened fire on an innocent classroom in a Connecticut elementary school.
We do what we can to prevent horrific things from occurring, but there’s always more we could do. Should we arm the Department of Public Safety? It would be a long, arduous, and costly legal and operational process that any school would be apprehensive to undergo. Should we increase security at the gate? As beneficial as it may be for DPS to be required to do more than briefly take a glimpse at what they assume to be a student identification card – but really could be anything from one’s driver’s license to the back of a Panera Bread rewards card – it would not be a pleasing new feature of campus life for students to submit to.
The most important, and probably the simplest, thing we can collectively participate in is being cognizant. Be cognizant of the fact that it only takes one person with a twisted mind and a smuggled firearm to enrapture this campus in a brand new reality, epitomized by unthinkable violence and irrational malice. Be cognizant of the idea that safety can be a privilege that should not be taken for granted. Be cognizant that the safety of yourself and your fellow students cannot and should not be left to chance. Be cognizant that though we have amazing resources like DPS, the guise of campus violence is not merely a far-off encumbrance felt by others, but instead a hastening and overarching reality across the nation. Our school can be safe, but it only takes one instance to change it all.