December 8, 2018

Run, Hide, Fight: is your Kid's University Campus Unprepared for a Campus Shooter?

In early December 2018, there was strange confusion in social media, and in particular many conservative media outlets, about "hockey pucks" being given to students and faculty at a "Michigan" university to "throw at shooters". Descriptions suggested images of students and faculty roaming the hallways like Marines, to attack bad guys with hockey pucks. The shocking secret of the whole affair was the number printed on these pucks, which almost no Fox media outlet ever actually explained, even though some were using a picture of the special puck they found in one of my own twitter posts. Printed in bold large font, it says "#33395 AUFD". What does this educational tool refer too? 

"AUFD", is Oakland University's yearly Fall fund drive. Our All-University Fund Drive, where many of us in the Oakland University Family choose to donate from our own paychecks into funds supporting various good causes at our own University. Our University's President even matches a large portion of our donations. These are causes like: 
student scholarships in all fields, programs in the arts, pediatric eye disease research, memorial scholarships for students, multicultural initiatives, disability support services, public and community educational events, suicide prevention, the Griz student food-bank, autism awareness, OU's relatively new educational working organic farm, and many more causes. 

Fund number #33395 was set up at the request of our faculty association so we could donate to a fund for the OU-Police to use for changing the locks on our classroom doors. Why? Well, because of events like the Virginia-Tech shooting and the what we have learned over the last decade about shooters in both K-12 schools and colleges.

Unfortunately, many Fox News reporters failed to report the real story, which they could have read about in the October 23, 2018 issue of the Oakland Post Online. That is what happens when you fail to check original sources or fail to interview the people involved in making the pucks. I would call that "Journalism 101". Some news organizations did a better job. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) actually interviewed Tom Discenna, the current President of my faculty association, the Oakland University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OUAAUP). Why? Because the hockey pucks were the idea of Tom and the current OU-AAUP executive committee. 

Full disclosure, I am the immediate past president of the OUAAUP, and sadly very aware of the lack of updated classroom door locks and the lack of training for students and faculty for active shooter events at my own university and most US colleges and universities for the last decade. For reasons I won't bother trying to explain here, despite requests and suggestions from faculty, it has taken about a decade to start addressing the simple change of locks on classroom doors to help students and their teachers carry out the process of Run, Hide, Fight. Personally, I hope what has begun to help my university (Oakland University) is having a University President who will face reality. 

I suspect that our University President had something to say to her administrators about paying attention to this "safety" issue in the midst of delivering press releases about how safe Oakland University's campus is. Over the holiday break, Oakland University decided to fund the replacement of EVERY CLASSROOM DOOR LOCK on campus with one that students and faculty can lock quickly from INSIDE the classroom during an active shooter situation. The funds collected in AUFD fund #33395 will be left for faculty and students to use for any other causes they want to fund instead. The locks were all paid for by my University, and my own children (students) informed me of the new locks on all their classroom doors in January 2019. What a difference it makes to have a University President who is a pediatrician and the voice of faculty and students to bring an old issue into more public awareness. Thankyou President Pescovitz.

What is Run, Hide and Fight?

For anyone who is not familiar with that checklist, it is the fundamental process taught and practiced several times a year in many many high schools and grade schools in the United States. If you are a US parent of toddlers who are not in school just yet, you will learn all about RunHideFight when your kids start school. Active shooter event training from security experts, including the FBI, teaches: Run, Hide, Fight. In that exact order. The fight is the last resort if you find yourself trapped and confronted by a person with a gun who is likely going to shoot you. You can let them shoot you, or you can fight and make it very hard for them to do so. 

In your work office or in a classroom, whether alone or in a group, you throw the hardest and heaviest stuff you can at the shooter and you tackle them. You sit on them, kick them, hit them and you do not stop until they have no control of their gun. Then you keep sitting on them, arms, legs, body, head until your Police arrive. Oakland University's Police Force is very well trained. However, things like classroom and office door locks that can be quickly locked on the inside can buy our police officers more time to find and neutralize a shooter and minimize the loss of life.

Was my University at some level embarrassed to be in the Fox news media spotlight? Yes, I suppose it was, but in reality, Oakland University is NOT alone among universities and colleges in America that still have classroom doors that cannot be quickly locked from INSIDE the classroom. Fox news went off on some weird agenda and in doing so missed the educational and awareness purpose of the hockey pucks. However, that said, as a boy who grew up in Canada using real hockey pucks on the back yard ice without pads on, I can guarantee you that pucks hurt like hell when they hit you in almost any part of your head or body. You can hold a puck in even a tiny hand, and when you do, this 98-cent educational awareness tool reminds the puck's holder about "Run, Hide, Fight". 

I have not seen any comments in the media from other universities about Oakland University's hockey pucks, because I suspect that many college administrators around the United States are quietly asking about the old style locks on their own classroom doors, and they are hoping the local TV station does not come to check out their classroom doors for a story.  

What about YOUR Kid's College Campus?

What is the status of campus preparation where you went to college or where your children go now? If an active shooter is coming down the hallway, does your Daughter or Son's professor have to fumble with a key on the hallway side of the door so they can barricade inside the room? Do their professors keep the door locked and propped open with a book, or puck, so students can come and go to the bathroom? With 70% of university professors being only part-time workers in 2018, who often lack an office on campus and even their own keys to the classrooms, can they relock the door? What if your students have to hide in a classroom without a teacher around to help them lock the door? Can they lock it quickly from inside by turning a latch? Do students get training for active shooter situations like they did when they were in still in High School?

It is all fine and dandy for news anchors, Facebook users, and Twitterites older than 30 to ridicule the hockey pucks, but none of us older than 30 understand what it is like to practice run, hide and fight, several times a year in our high schools. So talk to your under 30 Children, and ask them how it feels to practice these drills. If they are in college, ask them if they still practice active-shooter drills in college. The answer to the last question for many campuses in this country is going to be NO. 

Students, faculty, and staff, who live and work on our college campuses are done waiting for our institutions to get on the ball and make the required changes. As a parent of college students, I am pleased that my Faculty Association and our Student Congress decided to get the train rolling on classroom door locks. My older children will get at least one term of better doors before they graduate and our freshmen students will hopefully be better prepared in the future. There is still more to do on my campus and most campuses in the United States. To catch up to Virginia-Tech, we need to give mandatory active shooter training to every new student and staff member, so everyone knows the plan in an emergency. Scary events need to be practiced. The first practice cannot be the first time for real.

So I say good for Oakland University. If your kids come here, there are hundreds of professors and thousands of students busy working on making our campus just a little bit safer than it was yesterday.

- If you want to learn more about Run, Hide, Fight, view these videos on YouTube. I know the topic is uncomfortable, but no more so than the reality of our younger children already practicing active shooter drills in grade school.

FBI Run Hide Fight Video at Billboard

Run, hide, fight: Police stress key tips during mass shooting scenario


Ken Mitton
a Professor at Oakland University
and a concerned parent of college students.

Postscript 1-28-2019. Oakland University's staff and faculty donated $576,921 to the2018 All-University Fund Drive. There was a record number of donors for many good causes: 1,163. That speaks to how our University's staff and faculty care about our students and our mission.

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