In 2014 there was UCSB.
Then Wayne Community College.
Then Umpqua Community College and Texas Southern University.
Northern Arizona University, UCLA.
These are just a few of the 189 school shootings that have occurred since 2013.
Campus shootings are not isolated events–all colleges, no matter their size, location, or demographics, must be on high alert at all times. And yet, college students, residents or not, are supposed to consider their colleges a home away from home, a bastion of safety and security while they pursue their degree. While the majority of media attention is given to the immediate victims of campus shootings, very little consideration is given to the long term psychological effects the rest of the student body may face.
Jeremy Peschard can attest to how common campus shootings have become. At 21 years old, he’s already lived through two shootings since May, 2014. Peschard attended University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) during his freshman year and was locked down in his dorm as a shooter killed six people and injured 14 others before killing himself. Afterwards, Peschard transferred to UCLA, where he was again put on lockdown when a murder-suicide occurred on campus. When Peschard was asked about the shooting, he said he believed campus shootings are becoming a new normal and that no campus is truly safe. Peschard also believes that it is necessary to have better gun regulation.
Typically, the media will focus its attention on the perpetrator(s) and victim(s) within the following days of the tragedy. Very little attention, however, is spent on the resources used to help the university gain back a sense of “normalcy” in the aftermath. And yet, universities spend millions of dollars recovering from one, terrible moment. After the terror attack on Virginia Tech’s campus in 2007, the university spent over $38 million dollars recovering, splitting the funds between security, facilities, and campus health and wellness, to name a few.
Unless you’re directly affected, it’s hard to realize the lasting psychological impact that an event like a mass shooting may have. What’s more, college students are already vulnerable when it comes to dealing with mental health: research shows one in four students have a diagnosable mental illness. Students who are victims to these kinds of violent attacks often develop PTSD and have feelings of guilt for years to come.
Following the recent shooting at UCLA, in which a gunman shot and killed a professor before killing himself, students from across the nation became outraged when pictures of an email sent by UCLA professor Vivian Lew surfaced on social media. In the email, Lew stated that she still expected her students to find a computer in presumably a safe place and take the final during the campus lockdown. On top of this, Lew added that she was locked in her office and could not leave since the building was on lockdown. This angered students from both UCLA and other colleges and universities, who believed their transcripts and test scores were seen as more important than their safety and wellbeing.
Following the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the school spent just over $7 million on campus health and wellness. Though the massacre at Virginia Tech happened almost 10 years ago, the same conversations are still taking place today. Something must change with the United States—campus shootings cannot be the new normal on college campuses. And when we’re analyzing the effects of campus shootings, we must also consider the broad costs of gun violence: from the long-term mental health problems it fosters among survivors to the disinvestment in education to finance increased security measures. If Americans understand the long-term impacts of school shootings, we may be more apt to act to ensure the health of our students.