Last week, following a "shelter in place" alert sent campus-wide to SUNY Oneonta staff and students, students and staff responded in different ways, some knowing what to do, others not, resulting in fear and general confusion.

 

Following the October 2 "active shooter" incident, SUNY Oneonta Administration has come under fire for mishandling a potentially dangerous situation that thankfully did not end tragically.  According to AllOTSEGO, to answer those concerns from the SUNY Oneonta community, last night, a forum was held on campus including SUNY President Barbara Jean Morris, Emergency Manager Dave Lincoln and University Police Chief Jennifer Fila.  The forum was designed to address students' concerns about campus safety, address some of the confusing communication that took place during the shooter event, and to take responsibility for the fear and confusion that surrounded the "shelter in place" alert.

Franklin Chambers, vice president/ student development shared how the "shelter in place order developed on October 2: “We first had a cyber-threat, which we deemed credible, and we sent an alert out about that,” Chambers said.  “We had just determined that threat was over when we received a second threat through 911 operators that shots had been heard at Schumacher Hall.”

Police and administrators deemed the second threat credible and sent out an emergency alert by text, email and phone call and ordered everyone on campus to shelter in place.

The investigation revealed that neither threat was actually an active shooter situation.  The first threat came from a student's phone that had been hacked into.  The second threat which was thought to be the sound of a gunshot, turned out to be from an unknown source, but not from a gun.  At no point was anyone on campus found to be in possession of a weapon, according to Emergency Manager Dave Lincoln.  “The sound people heard could have been a door slamming or a desk being pushed up against a door,” he said. “In that situation, where people were scared, that sound could have been misconstrued as a gunshot.”

Some students at the forum stated that the term “shelter in place” was a confusing one and they weren't sure what to do. Other concerns raised had to do with parents of students who had also received the threat alerts, were flooding both campus and city police with phone calls, overwhelming their lines.  Plus, some students complained that not all faculty seemed to know what to do or showed empathy in the next days for students who felt too upset to return to campus the following day.

Morris defended her decision to hold classes by saying "I didn’t want students to be in isolation and reliving the trauma by themselves,” she said.  They have to have the community and routine, which is part of the practices we have in place.”

 

Add to all of that, students and staff mentioned problems with many of the classroom doors’ locks, which either did not work or were difficult to lock--a problem that Chambers says is going to be addressed by upgrading the locks around campus.  Other emergency response measures that were mentioned included getting rid of the “all-clear” alert system, a sound which made students panic even more,by misinterpreting the sound as a warning of another threat, as well as adding signage with and instructions on where and how to safely hide if a shelter in place order is sent out.

For more on this story provided in partnership with AllOTSEGO, click here.