In a dark classroom, in late February, several college students crouched behind a rolling chalkboard, terrified, thinking a gunman was on campus.
The Visual and Performing Arts Center was quiet except for the scared whisper from the professor instructing his students to stay calm, quiet and off their cell phones.
Although most ignored his request, my cell phone wasn’t within my reach, so I sat there, waiting, legitimately afraid for my life.
Once a little of the dust settled from the events of Feb. 26, the news of the — for lack of a better word — debacle came from our somber college president.
There had been no reason to be afraid. It was a mistake.
I will admit I was angry.
How many thousand people were unnecessarily traumatized by an incident that could have been avoided?
Now, six months later, the campus is buzzing and it feels normal again. This is in part due to a new semester and a new start but credit must be given to those who have worked diligently to improve our college’s safety procedures.
Starting at the top with Sechrist and his cabinet, and filtering down through the ranks of faculty and staff, the administration has made it clear that student safety is of the highest priority at OCCC.
Faculty and staff have been trained and several additional IP (Internet Protocol) phones have been installed. People’s voices have been heard through communication forums.
In addition, the approval for a campus police department has been issued and the changes are under way with estimated completion by July of next year.
This will ensure OCCC is even more protected because police assistance will be available more quickly.
Reported in a recent OCCC Board of Regents meeting, a survey among OCCC students indicated that the college ranked much lower than average, nationally, in the category of safety and security.
Marion Paden, Student Affairs vice president, said the survey was conducted shortly after the event in February and this may have been a reason for the low score.
If a survey were taken now, it is my opinion the college would rank much better.
With all the improvements that have been made and will continue to be made, it is apparent there is reason to feel safe on campus.
There is a lot of pride here.
We are a campus of beauty.
Although mistakes have been made in the past, it is how we learn from them that speaks to our integrity and wisdom.
In an educational setting, that speaks volumes.