By Jillian Fellows:
The Parkland, Florida high school shooting last month has left the nation shocked and disturbed, as we look for answers in the wake of yet another mass shooting to strike the country.
When the gunman, former Parkland student Nikolas Cruz, entered the school on February 14th, the Broward County Sheriff says he was armed with multiple magazines and an AR-15 style rifle. Within minutes, 17 people, including students and teachers, were killed.
This recent tragedy has sparked even more controversy over gun control and gun laws, as the nation seems to be getting more and more fed up with the seemingly growing violence across the States.
After all, the Parkland shooting is just the latest in a series of mass shootings that have happened across the U.S. We all remember the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, where a senior at the college shot and killed thirty-two people inside two university buildings. Then in 2012, twenty children and six teachers were fatally shot by a perpetrator at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Just this past Tuesday, authorities say an armed student shot two other students at a Maryland high school.
So with all of these school shootings, including the most recent in Parkland, do our students in Worcester feel safe from violence?
Assumption College appears free of danger to many outsiders, and students will often tell you it feels like a little “bubble” that is safe from violence and harm. Located on 185 acres of land in a residential area of Worcester, it sometimes seems impossible to imagine gun violence occurring on the campus. “I think there is a strong perception that we are a safe school,” says Assumption junior Anthony Citron. “But at the end of the day, sometimes you can’t keep bad people out.”
Citron is not unlike many students, who have confidence in school safety but are weary of the potential for gun violence. “I feel really safe here,” says sophomore Emily Grillo. “It’s like my home, but the scary part is you really never know what could happen.”
Assumption puts many security measures in place, and it isn’t uncommon to see a police car driving by as you walk to class. “We have an app that would alert us if anything was wrong,” says sophomore Zachary Fournier. “We have a siren that goes off and does drills regularly, and we have a gate up front.”
The gate Fournier refers to is located in the front of the college, and is usually manned with an officer or a college employee. The main goal of the gate is to prevent unwanted guests, or potentially harmful people, from entering school grounds. When the gate is unmanned, it becomes locked, and typically, one must swipe their school ID to be allowed in.
“I feel safe from regular violence,” says senior Tim Capurso. “In terms of gun violence, I think that they could do a better job at the gate. Sometimes I feel like just anybody could get in.”
Security at colleges is a complex issue, where many students want more safety measures, but do not want to lose their freedom and privacy. Finding the right balance between safety measurements and student freedom can be hard to achieve.
I asked twenty students who entered Worcester dormitory how they would feel about bag checks inside the building, and they overwhelmingly responded negatively to the idea. “I’d feel annoyed,” said one student. “Campus police are already strict enough here, so it would be overkill,” said another.
However, the response changed when prevention of gun violence was suggested to them. “As long as it’s to stop guns coming in, and not to get us in trouble for alcohol, I think it would be okay,” said a student. And many more agreed.
For now, the consensus is that most students do feel safe at the college. “I’ve never personally experienced gun violence,” says Fournier, “but in the event that it does happen, I think the school is pretty well equipped.”
Although a mass school shooting has not happened in the Worcester area, it seems as though some seem to be holding their breath, praying the next tragedy isn’t in our backyard.