During a nighttime delivery to HUB ATMs two weeks ago, three G4S guards were shot and killed. Today, all that remains of that devastating night are boarded up glass windows — a stark reminder of the tragedy that struck our campus.
In the early hours following the event, it was easy to criticize the university for its lack of communication. Students failed to receive emails telling them of an emergency until the next day, and those living in HUB were left in the dark for hours. For those who weren’t there, it’s impossible to imagine the panic and confusion that those students must have felt with having so little information. There’s no denying the seriousness of that misstep, and it’s a policy that needs extensive reviewing.
The U of A has a smartphone app and a text message system designed to immediately alert students when there are security risks or other emergency situations on campus. However, Provost Carl Amrhein stated that the emergency system wasn’t activated until after the EPS determined there was no longer a threat. Many students found out about the shootings through social media sites.
But while the university may have failed in that regard, they’ve stepped up in another. Almost immediately following the shooting, an external crisis support team was brought in by the university to provide support in the hours that followed the tragedy. The Health Centre and the Peer Support Group were available for those who needed a psychologist or a fellow peer to talk to. Those who needed to defer their exams were encouraged to do so, and any student who didn’t feel comfortable staying in HUB was welcome to move into the Lister Student Residence. Even those who needed a free meal or a long distance phone call were taken care of.
These actions may not seem overly incredible to some, but in the aftermath of such a tragedy, they can mean everything. There’s no denying that the university made some mistakes in its dealings with the shooting, and those are problems that need to be addressed, but there’s also no doubt that they’ve been trying to provide the best support they can to students in the days that followed. In the aftermath of a situation like this, taking care of students is all that really matters.
Even now, weeks after that fateful night, memorials continue to pop up around campus in remembrance of those affected by the shooting. Some students have even called for a permanent memorial to be erected in HUB Mall as an acknowledgement of the fact that lives were lost. Clearly, the students of the U of A aren’t ready to forget the tragic events of that night, and may require support for many months to come.
While many of us have gone on with our lives since the shooting, not everyone has been so fortunate. Boarded up glass may be the only physical reminder of that night, but the event has left emotional scars that we can’t see on many students. Students who worried for the safety of their friends and family upon hearing the news, students who believed their university to be a safe place and that nothing like this could ever happen here, students who saw and heard things that night that no one should ever have to — these are the students who will benefit from the counseling services and help the university has provided. For those students, we can be thankful for that.
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