A gun scare at UC Berkeley showed that students, staff were not in the loop

CAMPUS ISSUES: In event of an active-shooter threat on campus, UC Berkeley must make communication a higher priority.

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Emily Bi/Staff

There have been 236 mass shootings in the United States so far this year. As of May 25,  23 of those shootings have taken place on school campuses — and three of them have happened in California, making it the state with the highest number of school shootings this year. But despite the frequency and destructiveness of these horrific attacks, when UC Berkeley community members reported a possible gun threat on campus, administration failed to communicate effectively with students and staff.

On Wednesday, thousands of students received an alert from UCPD that said, “Report of a sighting of a subject with a gun. … Please avoid the area until further notice.”

For about 30 minutes after this message was sent, students and community members received no other direction from UCPD. It was business as usual on campus: Professors continued to lecture, employees continued to work and students continued to table on Sproul Plaza — mere feet away from where the individual with a gun was reported to be.

UCPD ultimately sent an “all clear” notice, stating that the person who had been reported with a gun “appeared to be a private armoured guard with legitimate business on campus.” This was later confirmed in a campuswide email by UC Berkeley spokesperson Diana Harvey.

It is incredibly relieving that this incident was no more than a misunderstanding. But in the brief period of time when community members were unsure about whether an armed individual was on campus, the response was shockingly disorganized.

Faculty, staff and students were given almost no information about what to do or how to react to the alert. In fact, some professors weren’t even aware of the reported threat. The César E. Chávez Student Center was evacuated, but there was no organized evacuation of the nearby, densely populated Sproul Plaza. Perhaps UCPD was already aware at the time that the individual in question was not dangerous — but if so, shouldn’t this have been clearly communicated to everyone on campus?

According to UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Nicolas Hernandez, it is “not uncommon” for individuals who are lawfully carrying firearms on campus to check in with campus police. But armed guard services such as the one that was on campus Wednesday generally do not share their locations with UCPD.

The campus does offer options for students who want to learn about safety protocol — such as active-shooter presentations provided by UCPD, Hernandez said in an email. But if Wednesday proved anything, it’s that students are not properly aware of these resources.

During new student orientations, UC Berkeley students learn what to do if a classmate seems incapacitated after consuming drugs or alcohol. In classes, professors repeatedly recite UC Berkeley’s honor code to students to dissuade them from plagiarizing and cheating on assignments. But the reality is that mass shootings are a daily occurrence and it is the responsibility of UC Berkeley to prepare its community for such a threat.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.