Students at California State University, Northridge will take some or all of their fall semester finals off-campus after two shooting threats in a single week — both for Wednesday, Dec. 12 — spurred them to urge officials to close the campus, according to a university statement and reported by USA Today.
In response, the college didn't close campus but required all finals occurring on Wednesday to be offered only in alternative formats. Faculty must provide off-campus options for finals scheduled from Thursday to Tuesday. Students were told they would not face penalties for using those formats. On social media, some students said they felt the campus should have closed Wednesday.
In the statement, President Dianne Harrison said that although police do not believe there is "an imminent threat" to the campus, she recognizes "the extreme stress and anxiety" the threats have caused. "We make these accommodations entirely in the interest of our students and their success," she wrote. A third threat was made against the university this week.
As the threat of gun violence on campus grows, colleges are changing how they engage students on the topic. Recently, those interventions have ranged from more realistic safety videos to prompts to chuck hockey pucks at shooters. The methods may vary, but the issue is compounding.
A 2016 report from the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City found incidents of gun violence on or near college campuses had "exploded" in the prior five years, both in frequency and in the number of casualties. It offers a harrowing assessment of that activity.
The number of incidents in which at least one person was shot on purpose, not including the shooter, climbed 153% between the 2001 to 2006 period and 2011 to 2016. The number of casualties spiked 241% during that time.
Of the 190 shooting incidents from the 2001-02 to 2015-16 academic years, 167 people were killed and 270 were wounded. And while 66% of all victims were students, 59% of shooters were not associated with the college, in the 145 incidents where the relationship was known.
Their causes show how difficult the issue can be for colleges to address. Although the most incidents (29%) stemmed from disputes, nearly 22% of attacks had "unknown" origins. Other causes included robbery, targeted attacks on students and employees, drugs and domestic violence.
That wide disparity is guiding colleges in how they assess and respond to the risk.
For example, colleges are upgrading their security systems with the capacity to rapidly alert the entire campus community on multiple platforms in the event of an emergency. Training for campus police is also shifting to focus on pursuing mass shooters. (Although rampages accounted for only seven of the 190 incidents, they had the highest fatality rate with between three and 32 people killed in each attack.) And colleges are creating behavioral intervention teams to investigate threats and concerns raised by students. Security experts have also called on colleges to augment their mental health resources.