Umpqua Community College interim president Rita Cavin addressed the media on Oct. 1. Cavin was the Vice President of Instruction at Citrus Collegefor the years 1992 to 1997(The Oregonian/YouTube)
Another college shooting.
As we sat in our newsroom watching the events unfold on live television, my mind could only focus on two words: Community College.
Last week I had no idea the city of Roseburg, Oregon even existed, just like how I am sure that across the country no one has any idea that about the city of Glendora or Citrus College until some horrible day we become part of this disturbing trend of gun violence on college campuses.
I don’t mean to say that in a foreboding or morbid sense, but as the name implies, a community college generally accepts everyone from the surrounding area. From the gung-ho overachieving science major to the social misfit who can’t relate to anyone, feels alone– community colleges are the mixing pot that brings us all together. This could have happened anywhere.
My heart went out to President Obama as he approached the microphone. The look of frustration and just utter defeat is a feeling I am sure he doesn’t wish on his enemies.
It was look I am sure was on the face of almost every decent minded person as we had to sit there again, and watch the same song and dance again, as we let yet another massacre happen.
“Somehow this has become routine,” Obama said. “The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine…we’ve become numb to this.”
He was fed up. So was I.
In the days following the shooting, I was shocked to learn that the interim president of Umpqua Community College, Rita Cavin, was at one time the Vice President of Instruction for Citrus College from 1992 to 1997.
It was a eerie feeling to see a member of our community now faced with the horrible task of explaining to the nation the horrific events that took place under her watch.
As the son of an educator and retired elementary school principal, I can tell you that those in positions like Cavin, care about the well being and safety of their students. Education, is not a 9-5 job, it’s a lifelong commitment.
I was also shocked to learn that the shooter was a one time student of El Camino College in Torrance, just 50 miles from our campus.
After learning these revelations, this issue went beyond the usual “gun control vs mental health” that I have heard time after unfortunate time again from talking heads on both sides of the political spectrum who just bicker back and forth and waste time instead of urging Congress to act.
In this scenario I saw zero degrees of separation between the events of Umpqua Community College and what could potentially happen on our campus.
Unlike school shootings that have taken place on four-year campuses, what made the events of Oregon so frightening is the fact that, two-year colleges have limited resources in place for mental health services and campus safety than those of the four-year institutions, who have campus police departments and better access to counselors with backgrounds in psychiatry and can provide on-site services.
This issue is no longer about just having armed campus safety or, god forbid, students carrying weapons and it is not an issue about mental health services
It is about preparedness. How prepared are we for something of this magnitude?
As we sat in our newsroom the question came up: “How would we, the Clarion, respond if something like this happens?”
It was a question I had never thought to ask myself both as a student and journalist, because before that Thursday, I would never have thought something that horrible could ever happen to a small college community like ours– I am sure the editors of the Umpqua Community College student newspaper thought the same thing.
As student journalists, whether it is here at the Clarion or across the country, we study the craft of being able to tell the stories many can’t, which is my poetic way of saying we usually end up covering things like Club Rush and student life features. There is no class that could have prepared those students for what happened on campus.
There is no “Campus Shooting” chapter in our textbooks for how to deal with the trauma and panic while trying to still do our jobs.
The first thing I did after seeing the events unfold on TV, was go straight to their student newspaper, and to see the courage of these students, live tweeting and being able to report what was happening was a tragically proud moment for me.
They did not need this kind of education, none of us do.
As students, who are coming to classes day after day we tend to take our experience here very casual: we go to class, go to work, come home, repeat.
There are some of us who get involved with clubs, honor societies, sports and student publications that get to know this campus and the faculty here and regard this place as our home.
Forgetting all the politics and bullshit rhetoric about gun control and school violence from pundits who I cannot relate to because quite frankly they grew in a different time when this was not a common occurrence. They are not students living in todays environment.
We as students need to be more proactive in our safety and security here at school.
We shouldn’t leave it just up to Campus Safety or the faculty and administration on campus to take care of. The campus provides the best resources they can, but as Obama also stated about prayers, those cannot be not enough for us.
Every semester Citrus participates in either an active shooter, evacuation or earthquake drill to help students prepare as best they can and every semester I watch as hordes of students either leave, don’t show up, or walk off across the street to go get lunch.
It is up to us as students to take this as serious as the administration does. Participating in these drills, like the upcoming drill on Oct. 28, is as essential as studying for an upcoming exam.
It’s becoming painfully clear, especially after the massacre at Sandy Hook, which resulted in the deaths of 20 elementary school students, that the shockwave of grief from the Umpqua College shooting will have little to no effect in getting Congress to take swift action in passing any kind of measure to make shootings like this and Sandy Hook a less frequent occurrence.
We have to look to ourselves and our community to protect the place many of us have come to call home. Take these drills serious; the life you save could be your own.
I hope the events of Umpqua Community College did not happen in vain, because if we have learned anything, it is that we no longer have the excuse of saying, “something like that could not happen here.”