After Campus Security alerts were sent nearly an hour after students reported to hearing gunshots on 15th Avenue, students took to class Facebook pages to offer their opinions.
Several students expressed disappointment and concern that they were not notified sooner, while others said it was the right move for Campus Security to wait and gather the necessary information first.
Junior Shannon Ogden was in a night class on the third floor of the JAAC when she heard the gunshots.
“All I know is I felt so fearful walking out of the building where I had just heard gunshots,” posted Ogden on the Belmont Class of 2019 Facebook page. “I should not have to wonder whether it is safe or not, and I should not have had to ask Metro for information when Campus Security could have already sent a message saying what had happened and to inform people to be cautious.”
Ogden reported to hearing gunshots around 8:30 p.m.. The first alert from Campus Security came nearly an hour later.
“We didn’t need details immediately, but we needed to be informed sooner.”
However, other students, like Andy Kelm, said that Campus Security alerted the campus in a timely manner and helped to keep students from panicking.
“I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, because I’m obviously the minority, but their priority is figuring out what is going on, specifically if there is an immediate threat the campus,” wrote Kelm on the Belmont Class of 2019 Facebook page. “They issued an alert when they knew what had happened, and had enough information to not cause a fuss and freak out students that are scattered all over Nashville. Expecting a notification for something like this, where they knew that the shooter had fled the scene, there were not immediate injuries, immediately is unreasonable.”
Kelm, who comes from a background working with EMTs, felt the response time was decent given that the situation was not life threatening at the time, he said.
“We live in a metropolitan area, and things like this are inherently a risk in a metropolitan area,” Kelm told the Vision. “Drive-by shooters don’t typically come back around. So, from an emergency alert perspective, I don’t think they could have done anything differently.”
The first question asked is whether or not there is an immediate threat to the campus, said Chief of Campus Security Pat Cunningham.
“When we talk about an imminent threat, we’re talking about something you see, and something that — if you don’t take action — is different than a more generic ‘they could return,'” Cunningham said. “We still want to get that information out, but I think there’s a difference in saying ‘this is the immediate threat, you need to seek shelter,’ and getting information out to say ‘you’ve got the information, now you can make decisions about what you need to do to keep yourself safe.”
With constant new information being received, it can be hard to find a balance between having all the information and releasing it all in a timely manner.
“There’s always continuing information coming in. We’ve got three phone calls coming in, four calls coming in, and there’s that balance between how long do you wait to send a notice and how much information do you get,” Cunningham said.
Following this incident, Campus Security does plan to have an increased presence on campus, and Metro Nashville Police plans to have an additional presence as well, Cunningham said.
The biggest thing Campus Security wanted to press was for students to stick to their security tips, like staying in groups and calling about suspicious events and people, even though — in this situation — not all of these were applicable, he said.
“This was a unique situation that we haven’t had before. The greater risks we have on a daily basis are those that we can help mitigate by following those security practices,” Cunningham said. “So I would tend not to fixate on ‘we had a critical incident and what do we do in response to that,’ as much as ‘we live in a major metropolitan area, what are those good security practices to help keep all of our campus safe.”