Safety Assurances Pass Test During Campus Lockdown
For many students on the Skidmore campus, the event Monday, in which a 16-year-old Wilton teen was suspected to be in possession of a handgun after disappearing near Daniels Road following a domestic dispute, was a first with respect to campus lockdowns. And for seniors, it was almost certainly a reminder of the two brief, but nonetheless concerning lockdown incidents that occurred during the fall of our freshman years (the first, you may recall, concerned a runaway rapist loose in the Northwoods parking lot, while the second was ultimately an innocuous bomb threat). Regardless, Monday’s partial shutdown of campus highlighted the commendable ways in which campus safety and other technological assurances serve to successfully combat potentially dangerous situations.
The first praiseworthy element was with respect to Skidmore’s campus safety officers and the Saratoga police department, which seemed to be synchronized wonderfully with one another. This coordination allowed for continuous communication from Skidmore’s Alert Systems, which kept the community abreast with the latest developments. The alerts were very timely and particularly effective from a frequency perspective, as even when no new developments occurred throughout much of the afternoon, the alerts continued to confirm that all precautions were still in place. Also, we would be remiss not to mention the presence of campus safety officers patrolling the campus throughout the afternoon in their vehicles and at the dining hall, which opened at 5 pm even while the partial lockdown was technically still in effect. Their prominent role throughout the day, and in these sort of events more generally, was reassuring.
Of course, the events Monday turned out to be a bit overly-dramatic, as the teen, identified as Bryce Byno, a student at Saratoga Springs High School, was not armed when he was arrested at approximately 6:15 pm. It would be unfair to levy criticisms at any safety organization for being too cautious, as opposed to the alternative.
Nonetheless, a couple areas of improvement concerning how the details of this situation were communicated to the community can be identified. Most notably, the wording of certain messages--particularly the alert sent at 1:55 pm titled “Classes Suspended Immediately!” that informed students to “return to residence immediately and REMAIN there!”--could have been improved upon. For students on campus to read the word “handgun” in an alert and be told, with accompanying exclamation marks and capital letters, to immediately return to their residences, raised a level of alarm that was in disjunction with a call to masses of students to walk outside to get to a different location.
Again, being overly-cautious is hardly something to criticize heavily. But combined with what many members of the editorial board found to be a very vague first alert regarding the police “investigating a man with a handgun” and little further details (although implied that there is a suspicious situation unfolding, it is technically not illegal for a citizen to carry a handgun), the aforementioned message informing the community of the lockdown could have been worded in a more composed manner, particularly given the ultimate conclusion to the situation.
Fortunately, Monday’s events safely resolved themselves for all parties involved. But these incidents do call for reflection as to how Skidmore--or any college for that matter, particularly non-urban ones--could handle a truly serious threat. While events of this nature are highly unlikely, it would be negligent to note the possible similarity between this recent event and the Sandy Hook shooting, which also stemmed from a domestic disturbance in which the murderer left his home with a weapon. Luckily, Skidmore is situated in a relatively safe area and therefore less likely to be a target for someone with malicious intentions. However, being an open campus means we are comfortable having little security and surveillance precautions at campus entrances and residence halls. At least we can take solace in the fact that the likelihood of horrific events is extremely low, and that the enforcements currently in place are sufficient, as evident throughout Monday’s lockdown.