Campus Safety and Security Downplayed a Shooting Threat

On Friday, Nov. 20th, dozens of student leaders attended a mandatory training from Human Resources on “SafeCampus: Violence Prevention Training.” Student leadership specialist Ramiro Espinoza sent an e-mail to all student leaders stating that, “This is an important training designed to prepare, respond, and avoid violent situations on campus.”

Oh, the irony. Just hours before this training took place, the UW Alert system notified students about a “threat of violence against a School of the Arts student who attends classes held on our campus.” The imprecise nature of the threat caused concern among several UWT students.

For those of you who received the notification and weren’t concerned, you should have been. That “threat of violence” turned out to be an individual threatening to shoot students. But did campus safety and security tell us that? Nope. In fact, five days after the fact, when I reached out to the Director of Campus Security, Susan Wagshul-Golden, she promptly shut down my inquiries. Instead, she redirected me to Director of External Relations Mike Wark.

According to UWT’s safety and security website, one of their key values is respect. “We safeguard the dignity and rights of all individuals.” Bull. As a student, I pay good money to go here, and as such, it is my right to know if my life is in danger. I only found out the specific details of the threat because I’m a School of the Arts (SOTA) alumni, and I happened to see a Facebook post from SOTA teacher Paul Eliot, who talked about the incident in full.

At first glance, I could understand why the alert was so vague; administrators didn’t want to cause widespread panic. However, it’s not up to the administration to decide how seriously to take this threat. It’s up to the students, faculty, and staff that go here. God forbid that this threat was actually carried out, and then whoever was responsible for sending out that vague alert would have blood on their hands. The whole point of the SafeCampus training is that violence can be prevented.

It may seem like an overreaction to be so upset about this, but due to all the recent campus shootings, these threats shouldn’t be taken lightly. If it can happen at Columbine, if it can happen at Virginia Tech, if it can happen at Umpqua, it can most certainly happen here.

I reached out to Director of External Relations Mike Wark about this incident. I wanted answers to some very important questions I have, such as:

  • Who specifically (on behalf UWT) was notified about this threat?
  • When did the threat initially take place and how long afterward was UWT notified about it?
  • What specific details about the threat were known to UWT?
  • Did UWT consider cancelling classes? If so, why did UWT ultimately decide not to?
  • If UWT knew about the specific nature of the threat, why was the alert so vague?

Unfortunately, due to the holidays, Mike Wark stated that he wouldn’t be able to answer my questions before Monday afternoon. Stay tuned for next week’s follow-up in which I will reveal Wark’s responses to these questions.

Illustration by Anna K. Fern

Illustration by Anna K. Fern

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