Today I got a text message from a student asking me what was going on at the library. When I asked her to clarify, she said that the building had been evacuated and there were 6 police units in the parking lot. I grabbed my Res Life raincoat (because it was raining, and it makes me look more official) and I went down to make sure they didn’t need help with crowd control. By the time I arrived the action was over, and there was one lone police car driving away. I caught up with one of our Safety and Security officers who informed me that some students had been in the library and seen a man who they believed to be in his 30s holding something that looked like a gun, so they expressed concern to library staff, who calls Safety and Security. It turns out he was holding a set of keys.
A few weeks ago there was a tornado that took out a large portion of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Pepperdine in Malibu, California was threatened by fires in October, and part of the campus had to be evacuated. Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois have both lost students in campus shootings this past February.
And if anything were to ever happen at my university, I’m one of the people who has to respond.
So that’s an overwhelming thought. Whenever I read any of these stories, my mind immediately jumps to the people who work in residence life and student affairs on those campuses. What they must be going through, what kind of stress they must be under. Because the thing is, if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole like me, you’re probably the one the students are looking to first, because you’re the one they recognize, the one they feel safe with. And you have absolutely no power to help them, because all the decisions being made are coming from people much higher than you, who have to make the best choices for the campus as a whole, and those decisions might not make sense to the people on the ground.
A few days after the tornado I found a collection of pictures on flickr that had been put up by some students and staff who had gone out after the storm, trying to capture what they could. I sat at my desk one afternoon and watched the slide show for nearly an hour. When it got to the pictures of the residence hall that had been destroyed, I cried.
Occasionally I have a meeting with a student that ends poorly, and sometimes the thought crosses my mind that if they were going to lash out, I could be their target. It’s silly, I know, and I can’t let these highly-publicized violent acts on what is actually a small percentage of college campuses create a sense of fear in my job. But it still happens.
Tonight my girl PAs are coming over to watch My Date With Drew, which might be the best documentary ever made. I’m looking forward to it, because I haven’t given myself the time to enjoy my girls this year like I should, and really, they’re why I’m here.