As many students arrived back on campus following the Presidents’ Day holiday, the Hilltop was returning to life on the evening of Monday, Feb. 21.
This reunion was swiftly interrupted when at approximately 6 p.m. the USF community received an Emergency Alert that read: “Report of a person with a gun at Loyola Village. Avoid the area or shelter in place.”
Rozelle Garcia, a senior psychology major, watched the incident from her residence in Loyola Village. She was admittedly concerned about the response time of USF’s Department of Public Safety.
“I saw SFPD and USF Public Safety cars gathering in front of the building,” she said. “But, there was a time gap from when USF’s Emergency System notified us to go on lockdown to when they actually showed up to Loyola Village.”
From her sheltered state, Garcia was able to see officers enter building B of Loyola Village and leave escorting a person into an ambulance. Garcia said she believes she saw the officers handcuff the person, but cannot be completely certain.
In a statement to the Foghorn, the USF Department of Public Safety disclosed that after learning a student in Loyola Village was reported to be in possession of a firearm, “Public Safety, the San Francisco Police Department, and members of Student Life arrived onsite to offer assistance for all students involved.” There were no more specifics of the evening that they were willing to comment on.
These events presumably occurred for an hour, concluding at 7 p.m. when the shelter in place was lifted. Two hours later, the USF community got an email from Vice Provost Julie Orio, stating that “the reported firearm was determined to be a replica. There was no firearm in the residence hall and no injuries were reported.”
Garcia expressed concern that the email did not mention if either the person or the firearm replica were removed from the building. The response did not explain the ambulance or whether or not the individual would be receiving medical attention.
“I feel like the situation was glazed over as something small,” Garcia said. “USF’s alert put a lot of students in high stress for them to not provide clarity or reassurance in the email they sent.”
Jocelyn Luciani, a sophomore international business major, was one of these concerned students.
“I was shocked to read that alert,” Luciani said. “I felt worried that the incident happened so close to my dorm room in Lone Mountain East.”
While Luciani was relieved the incident was resolved, further reflection led her to another concern. “On the day that we get a notification that is about a more serious situation,” she said, pausing for a moment to catch her breath. “I worry a lot of people won’t know what to do.”
This has been a topic of concern on the minds of many following the incident, as USF is an open campus in the middle of San Francisco. Many doors require no credentials for entry, such as the main entry to Lone Mountain, and there are no metal detectors in common spaces. Monday’s incident has many wondering what the protocols are for gun-related incidents on campus.
If a situation were to occur in a residence hall, such as Loyola Village, and resident advisors (RAs) learn of a resident in possession of a firearm, they are told to contact their Resident Director who would then contact Public Safety, according to An Tran, senior biology major and RA in Lone Mountain North.
“For my residents, I would tell them everything I know about the situation and tell them to stay in their rooms until it is resolved,” Tran said. “I would also lock down in my room and wait for further guidance, and I would use my best judgment for what to do if the situation escalates.”
Though Tran expressed gratitude for Public Safety and joy for her job as an RA, she said she carries the weight of responsibility for the safety of her fellow students. “When scary situations happen on campus, I feel pretty left in the dark and unprepared as an RA,” she said. “It is hard to gauge what the safest option is when we as residents don’t know what’s happening, so we just have to wait in our rooms.”
Community Advisors (CAs), stationed at the building’s entry desk, are also told to use their own judgment for safety in a firearm related scenario, according to Lauren White, a sophomore business management major and CA for Lone Mountain East.
“As a CA, we are told to notify Public Safety, or in an emergency press the panic button. That turns on the camera at the desk and notifies Public Safety so they can see what’s going on, but in that state, there is not really much else the CA could do,” White said. “You’re just told to try and resolve the situation, keeping it as calm as possible before they arrive.”
“I’ve never had to call Public Safety, but the times my colleagues have had to use the emergency lines, I’ve never heard anything negative about it,” White continued. “I gather that they’re pretty proactive in their response.”
This is a shift in the perception of Public Safety from November 2019, when students shared their frustrations regarding Public Safety’s response time in a firearm related incident on campus. Without a timely alert from Public Safety, information regarding the uncertain situation spread through social media, causing fears to quickly escalate for students.
RAs and CAs both have trainings at the beginning of each semester so that they can learn the emergency response policies, according to Tran and White. While student employees have this training, the majority of USF students do not.
Dan Lawson, senior director of the USF Department of Public Safety, said in a statement to the Foghorn that while students do not have regular active shooter drills, they rely heavily on the Dons Alert Emergency Notification system, the CSU “Run, Hide, Fight” Action Plan, and community care.
“It takes all of us to have a safe community. Community members need to continue to look out for each other and report any concerning situations to Public Safety, (who are) on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Lawson stated. “We appreciate the care our students, faculty, and staff have for each other and for this place.”
USF’s Public Safety Patrol can be reached 24/7 at (415) 422-2911 and students can register for the Dons Alert Emergency notification system at myusf.usfca.edu.
Megan Robertson, a sophomore media studies and performing arts & social justice double major, is the Foghorn’s deputy news editor and general assignment reporter. She can be reached at email@example.com.