Campus Response to a Student Gunman Author(syf Kelly J. Asmussen and John W. Creswell Source: The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 66, No. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 1995yf S S 1 Published by: Ohio State University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2943937 .
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Ohio State University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journalof Higher Education. http://www.jstor.org Kelly J. Asmussen 3t John W. Creswell Campus Response to a Student Gunman With increasingly frequent incidents of campus vi- olence, a small, growing scholarly literature about the subject is emerg- ing. For instance, authors have reported on racial , courtship and sexually coercive [3, 7, 8], and hazing violence . For the American College Personnel Association, Roark  and Roark and Roark  reviewed the forms of physical, sexual, and psychological violence on college campuses and suggested guidelines for prevention strategies. Roark  has also suggested criteria that high-school students might use to assess the level of violence on college campuses they seek to at- tend. At the national level, President Bush, in November 1989, signed into law the “Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act” (P.L. 101-542yf which requires colleges and universities to make available to students, employees, and applicants an annual report on security poli- cies and campus crime statistics . One form of escalating campus violence that has received little atten- tion is student gun violence. Recent campus reports indicate that vio- lent crimes from thefts and burglaries to assaults and homicides are on the rise at colleges and universities . College campuses have been shocked by killings such as those at The University of Iowa , The University of Florida , Concordia University in Montreal, and the University of Montreal -Ecole Polytechnique . Incidents such as these raise critical concerns, such as psychological trauma, campus safety, and disruption of campus life. Aside from an occasional news- Kelly J. Asmussen is assistant professor of criminal justice at Peru State College, and John W. Creswell is professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 66, No. 5 (September/October 1995yf Copyright 1995 by the Ohio State University Press 576 Journal of Higher Education paper report, the postsecondary literature is silent on campus reactions to these tragedies; to understand them one must turn to studies about gun violence in the public school literature. This literature addresses strategies for school intervention [21, 23], provides case studies of inci- dents in individual schools [6, 14, 15,], and discusses the problem of students who carry weapons to school  and the psychological trauma that results from homicides . A need exists to study campus reactions to violence in order to build conceptual models for future study as well as to identify campus strate- gies and protocols for reaction. We need to understand better the psy- chological dimensions and organizational issues of constituents involved in and affected by these incidents. An in-depth qualitative case study exploring the context of an incident can illuminate such conceptual and pragmatic understandings. The study presented in this article is a qual- itative case analysis  that describes and interprets a campus re- sponse to a gun incident. We asked the following exploratory research questions: What happened? Who was involved in response to the inci- dent? What themes of response emerged during the eight-month period that followed this incident? What theoretical constructs helped us un- derstand the campus response, and what constructs were unique to this case?
The Incident and Response The incident occurred on the campus of a large public university in a Midwestern city. A decade ago, this city had been designated an “all- American city,” but more recently, its normally tranquil environment has been disturbed by an increasing number of assaults and homicides. Some of these violent incidents have involved students at the university. The incident that provoked this study occurred on a Monday in Oc- tober. A forty-three-year-old graduate student, enrolled in a senior- level actuarial science class, arrived a few minutes before class, armed with a vintage Korean War military semiautomatic rifle loaded with a thirty-round clip of thirty caliber ammunition. He carried another thirty- round clip in his pocket. Twenty of the thirty-four students in the class had already gathered for class, and most of them were quietly reading the student newspaper. The instructor was en route to class. The gunman pointed the rifle at the students, swept it across the room, and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. Trying to unlock the rifle, he hit the butt of it on the instructor’s desk and quickly tried firing it again. Again it did not fire. By this time, most students realized what was happening and dropped to the floor, overturned their desks, and Campus Response to Violence 577 tried to hide behind them. After about twenty seconds, one of the stu- dents shoved a desk into the gunman, and students ran past him out into the hall and out of the building. The gunman hastily departed the room and went out of the building to his parked car, which he had left running. He was captured by police within the hour in a nearby small town, where he lived. Although he remains incarcerated at this time, awaiting trial, the motivations for his actions are unknown. Campus police and campus administrators were the first to react to the incident. Campus police arrived within three minutes after they had received a telephone call for help. They spent several anxious minutes outside the building interviewing students to obtain an accurate descrip- tion of the gunman. Campus administrators responded by calling a news conference for 4:00 P.M. the same day, approximately four hours after the incident. The police chief as well as the vice-chancellor of Stu- dent Affairs and two students described the incident at the news con- ference. That same afternoon, the Student Affairs office contacted Student Health and Employee Assistance Program (EAPyf counselors and instructed them to be available for any student or staff requesting assistance. The Student Affairs office also arranged for a new location, where this class could meet for the rest of the semester. The Office of Judicial Affairs suspended the gunman from the university. The next day, the incident was discussed by campus administrators at a regularly scheduled campuswide cabinet meeting. Throughout the week, Student Affairs received several calls from students and from a faculty member about “disturbed” students or unsettling student relations. A counselor of the Employee Assistance Program consulted a psychologist with a specialty in dealing with trauma and responding to educational crises. Only one student immediately set up an appointment with the student health counselors. The campus and local newspapers continued to carry stories about the incident. When the actuarial science class met for regularly scheduled classes two and four days later, the students and the instructor were visited by two county attorneys, the police chief, and two student mental health counselors who conducted “debriefing” sessions. These sessions focused on keeping students fully informed about the judicial process and hav- ing the students and the instructor, one by one, talk about their expe- riences and explore their feelings about the incident. By one week after the incident, the students in the class had returned to their standard class format. During this time, a few students, women who were con- cerned about violence in general, saw Student Health Center counse- lors. These counselors also fielded questions from several dozen parents who inquired about the counseling services and the level of safety on 578 Journal of Higher Education campus. Some parents also called the campus administration to ask about safety procedures. In the weeks following the incident, the faculty and staff campus newsletter carried articles about post-trauma fears and psychological trauma. The campus administration wrote a letter that provided facts about the incident to the board of the university. The administration also mailed campus staff and students information about crime preven- tion. At least one college dean sent out a memo to staff about “aberrant student behavior,” and one academic department chair requested and held an educational group session with counselors and staff on identify- ing and dealing with “aberrant behavior” of students. Three distinctly different staff groups sought counseling services at the Employee Assistant Program, a program for faculty and staff, dur- ing the next several weeks. The first group had had some direct involve- ment with the assailant, either by seeing him the day of the gun incident or because they had known him personally. This group was concerned about securing professional help, either for the students or for those in the group who were personally experiencing effects of the trauma. The second group consisted of the “silent connection,” individuals who were indirectly involved and yet emotionally traumatized. This group recog- nized that their fears were a result of the gunman incident, and they wanted to deal with these fears before they escalated. The third group consisted of staff who had previously experienced a trauma, and this incident had retriggered their fears. Several employees were seen by the EAP throughout the next month, but no new groups or delayed stress cases were reported. The EAP counselors stated that each group’s reac- tions were normal responses. Within a month, although public discus- sion of the incident had subsided, the EAP and Student Health counse- lors began expressing the need for a coordinated campus plan to deal with the current as well as any future violent incident. The Research Study We began our study two days after the incident. Our first step was to draft a research protocol for approval by the university administration and the Institutional Review Board. We made explicit that we would not become involved in the investigation of the gunman or in the therapy to students or staff who had sought assistance from counselors. We also limited our study to the reactions of groups on campus rather than ex- pand it to include off-campus groups (for example, television and news- paper coverageyf This bounding of the study was consistent with an exploratory qualitative case study design , which was chosen be- cause models and variables were not available for assessing a campus Campus Response to Violence 579 reaction to a gun incident in higher education. In the constructionist tradition, this study incorporated the paradigm assumptions of an emerg- ing design, a context-dependent inquiry, and an inductive data analysis . We also bounded the study by time (eight monthsyf and by a single case (the campus communityyf Consistent with case study design [17, 31], we identified campus administrators and student newspaper report- ers as multiple sources of information for initial interviews. Later we expanded interviews to include a wide array of campus informants, us- ing a semistructured interview protocol that consisted of five questions: What has been your role in the incident? What has happened since the event that you have been involved in? What has been the impact of this incident on the university community? What larger ramifications, if any, exist from the incident? To whom should we talk to find out more about the campus reaction to the incident? We also gathered observa- tional data, documents, and visual materials (see table 1 for types of information and sourcesyf TABLE I Data Collection Matrix -Type of Information by Source Audio-Visual Information/Information Source Interviews Observations Documents Materials Students involved Yes Yes Students at large Yes Central administration Yes Yes Campus police Yes Yes Faculty Yes Yes Yes Staff Yes Physical plant Yes Yes News reporters/papers/T.V. Yes Yes Yes Student health counselors Yes Employee Assistance Program counselors Yes Trauma expert Yes Yes Yes Campus businesses Yes Board members Yes The narrative structure was a “realist” tale , describing details, incorporating edited quotes from informants, and stating our interpre- tations of events, especially an interpretation within the framework of organizational and psychological issues. We verified the description and interpretation by taking a preliminary draft of the case to select informants for feedback and later incorporating their comments into the final study [17, 18]. We gathered this feedback in a group interview where we asked: Is our description of the incident and the reaction ac- curate? Are the themes and constructs we have identified consistent 580 Journal of Higher Education with your experiences? Are there some themes and constructs we have missed? Is a campus plan needed? If so, what form should it take? Themes Denial Several weeks later we returned to the classroom where the incident occurred. Instead of finding the desks overturned, we found them to be neatly in order; the room was ready for a lecture or discussion class. The hallway outside the room was narrow, and we visualized how stu- dents, on that Monday in October, had quickly left the building, un- aware that the gunman, too, was exiting through this same passageway. Many of the students in the hallway during the incident had seemed unaware of what was going on until they saw or heard that there was a gunman in the building. Ironically though, the students had seemed to ignore or deny their dangerous situation. After exiting the building, in- stead of seeking a hiding place that would be safe, they had huddled together just outside the building. None of the students had barricaded themselves in classrooms or offices or had exited at a safe distance from the scene in anticipation that the gunman might return. “People wanted to stand their ground and stick around,” claimed a campus police of- ficer. Failing to respond to the potential danger, the class members had huddled together outside the building, talking nervously. A few had been openly emotional and crying. When asked about their mood, one of the students had said, “Most of us were kidding about it.” Their con- versations had led one to believe that they were dismissing the incident as though it were trivial and as though no one had actually been in danger. An investigating campus police officer was not surprised by the students’ behavior: It is not unusual to see people standing around after one of these types of incidents. The American people want to see excitement and have a morbid curiosity. That is why you see spectators hanging around bad accidents. They do not seem to understand the potential danger they are in and do not want to leave until they are injured. This description corroborates the response reported by mental health counselors: an initial surrealistic first reaction. In the debriefing by counselors, one female student had commented, “I thought the gun- man would shoot out a little flag that would say ‘bang.”‘ For her, the event had been like a dream. In this atmosphere no one from the tar- geted class had called the campus mental health center in the first twenty-four hours following the incident, although they knew that ser- vices were available. Instead, students described how they had visited Campus Response to Violence 581 with friends or had gone to bars; the severity of the situation had dawned on them later. One student commented that he had felt fearful and angry only after he had seen the television newscast with pictures of the classroom the evening of the incident. Though some parents had expressed concern by phoning counselors, the students’ denial may have been reinforced by parent comments. One student reported that his parents had made comments like, “I am not surprised you were involved in this. You are always getting yourself into things like this!” or “You did not get hurt. What is the big deal? Just let it drop!” One student expressed how much more traumatized he had been as a result of his mother’s dismissal of the event. He had wanted to have someone whom he trusted willing to sit down and listen to him. Fear Our visit to the classroom suggested a second theme: the response of fear. Still posted on the door several weeks after the incident, we saw the sign announcing that the class was being moved to another undis- closed building and that students were to check with a secretary in an adjoining room about the new location. It was in this undisclosed class- room, two days after the incident, that two student mental health coun- selors, the campus police chief, and two county attorneys had met with students in the class to discuss fears, reactions, and thoughts. Reactions of fear had begun to surface in this first “debriefing” session and con- tinued to emerge in a second session. The immediate fear for most students centered around the thought that the alleged assailant would be able to make bail. Students felt that the assailant might have harbored resentment toward certain students and that he would seek retribution if he made bail. “I think I am going to be afraid when I go back to class. They can change the rooms, but there is nothing stopping him from finding out where we are!” said one student. At the first debriefing session the campus police chief was able to dispel some of this fear by announcing that during the initial hearing the judge had denied bail. This announcement helped to reassure some students about their safety. The campus police chief thought it neces- sary to keep the students informed of the gunman’s status, because sev- eral students had called his office to say that they feared for their safety if the gunman were released. During the second debriefing session, another fear surfaced: the pos- sibility that a different assailant could attack the class. One student re- acted so severely to this potential threat that, according to one counse- lor, since the October incident, “he had caught himself walking into 582 Journal of Higher Education class and sitting at a desk with a clear shot to the door. He was begin- ning to see each classroom as a’battlefield.”‘ In this second session stu- dents had sounded angry, they expressed feeling violated, and finally began to admit that they felt unsafe. Yet only one female student im- mediately accessed the available mental health services, even though an announcement had been made that any student could obtain free coun- seling. The fear students expressed during the “debriefing” sessions mirrored a more general concern on campus about increasingly frequent violent acts in the metropolitan area. Prior to this gun incident, three young females and a male had been kidnapped and had later been found dead in a nearby city. A university football player who experienced a psy- chotic episode had severely beaten a woman. He had later suffered a relapse and was shot by police in a scuffle. Just three weeks prior to the October gun incident, a female university student had been abducted and brutally murdered, and several other homicides had occurred in the city. As a student news reporter commented, “This whole semester has been a violent one.” Safety The violence in the city that involved university students and the sub- sequent gun incident that occurred in a campus classroom shocked the typically tranquil campus. A counselor aptly summed up the feelings of many: “When the students walked out of that classroom, their world had become very chaotic; it had become very random, something had happened that robbed them of their sense of safety.” Concern for safety became a central reaction for many informants. When the chief student affairs officer described the administration’s reaction to the incident, he listed the safety of students in the classroom as his primary goal, followed by the needs of the news media for details about the case, helping all students with psychological stress, and pro- viding public information on safety. As he talked about the safety issue and the presence of guns on campus, he mentioned that a policy was under consideration for the storage of guns used by students for hunt- ing. Within four hours after the incident, a press conference was called during which the press was briefed not only on the details of the inci- dent, but also on the need to ensure the safety of the campus. Soon thereafter the university administration initiated an informational cam- paign on campus safety. A letter, describing the incident, was sent to the university board members. (One board member asked, “How could such an incident happen at this university?”yf The Student Affairs Of- fice sent a letter to all students in which it advised them of the various Campus Response to Violence 583 dimensions of the campus security office and of the types of services it provided. The Counseling and Psychological Services of the Student Health Center promoted their services in a colorful brochure, which was mailed to students in the following week. It emphasized that ser- vices were “confidential, accessible, and professional.” The Student Ju- diciary Office advised academic departments on various methods of dealing with students who exhibited abnormal behavior in class. The weekly faculty newsletter stressed that staff needed to respond quickly to any post-trauma fears associated with this incident. The campus newspaper quoted a professor as saying, “I’m totally shocked that in this environment, something like this would happen.” Responding to the concerns about disruptive students or employees, the campus police department sent plainclothes officers to sit outside offices whenever fac- ulty and staff indicated concerns. An emergency phone system, Code Blue, was installed on campus only ten days after the incident. These thirty-six ten-foot-tall emergency phones, with bright blue flashing lights, had previously been approved, and specific spots had already been identified from an earlier study. “The phones will be quite an attention getter,” the director of the Tele- communications Center commented. “We hope they will also be a big detractor [to crime].” Soon afterwards, in response to calls from con- cerned students, trees and shrubbery in poorly lit areas of campus were trimmed. Students and parents also responded to these safety concerns. At least twenty-five parents called the Student Health Center, the univer- sity police, and the Student Affairs Office during the first week after the incident to inquire what kind of services were available for their students. Many parents had been traumatized by the news of the event and immediately demanded answers from the university. They wanted assurances that this type of incident would not happen again and that their child was safe on the campus. Undoubtedly, many parents also called their children during the weeks immediately following the inci- dent. The students on campus responded to these safety concerns by forming groups of volunteers who would escort anyone on campus, male or female, during the evening hours. Local businesses profited by exploiting the commercial aspects of the safety needs created by this incident. Various advertisements for self- defense classes and protection devices inundated the newspapers for several weeks. Campus and local clubs who offered self-defense classes filled quickly, and new classes were formed in response to numerous additional requests. The campus bookstore’s supply of pocket mace and whistles was quickly depleted. The campus police received several 584 Journal of Higher Education inquiries by students who wanted to purchase handguns to carry for protection. None were approved, but one wonders whether some guns were not purchased by students anyway. The purchase of cellular tele- phones from local vendors increased sharply. Most of these purchases were made by females; however, some males also sought out these items for their safety and protection. Not unexpectedly, the price of some products was raised as much as 40 percent to capitalize on the newly created demand. Student conversations centered around the pur- chase of these safety products: how much they cost, how to use them correctly, how accessible they would be if students should need to use them, and whether they were really necessary. Retriggering In our original protocol, which we designed to seek approval from the campus administration and the Institutional Review Board, we had outlined a study that would last only three months -a reasonable time, we thought, for this incident to run its course. But during early interviews with counselors, we were referred to a psychologist who spe- cialized in dealing with “trauma” in educational settings. It was this psychologist who mentioned the theme of “retriggering.” Now, eight months later, we begin to understand how, through “retriggering,” that October incident could have a long-term affect on this campus. This psychologist explained retriggering as a process by which new incidents of violence would cause individuals to relive the feelings of fear, denial, and threats to personal safety that they had experienced in connection with the original event. The counseling staffs and violence expert also stated that one should expect to see such feelings retrig- gered at a later point in time, for example, on the anniversary date of the attack or whenever newspapers or television broadcasts mentioned the incident again. They added that a drawn-out judicial process, dur- ing which a case were “kept alive” through legal maneuvering, could cause a long period of retriggering and thereby greatly thwart the heal- ing process. The fairness of the judgment of the court as seen by each victim, we were told, would also influence the amount of healing and resolution of feelings that could occur. As of this writing, it is difficult to detect specific evidence of retrig- gering from the October incident, but we discovered the potential con- sequences of this process firsthand by observing the effects of a nearly identical violent gun incident that had happened some eighteen years earlier. A graduate student carrying a rifle had entered a campus build- ing with the intention of shooting the department chairman. The student was seeking revenge, because several years earlier he had flunked a Campus Response to Violence 585 course taught by this professor. This attempted attack followed several years of legal maneuvers to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate this stu- dent, who, on more than one occasion, had tried to carry out his plan but each time had been thwarted by quick-thinking staff members who would not reveal the professor’s whereabouts. Fortunately, no shots were ever fired, and the student was finally apprehended and arrested. The professor who was the target of these threats on his life was se- riously traumatized not only during the period of these repeated inci- dents, but his trauma continued even after the attacker’s arrest. The complex processes of the criminal justice system, which, he believed, did not work as it should have, resulted in his feeling further vic- timized. To this day, the feelings aroused by the original trauma are retriggered each time a gun incident is reported in the news. He was not offered professional help from the university at any time; the counseling services he did receive were secured through his own initiative. Eighteen years later his entire department is still affected in that unwritten rules for dealing with disgruntled students and for protecting this particular professor’s schedule have been established. Campus Planning The question of campus preparedness surfaced during discussions with the psychologist about the process of “debriefing” individuals who had been involved in the October incident [ 19]. Considering how many diverse groups and individuals had been affected by this incident, a fi- nal theme that emerged from our data was the need for a campuswide plan. A counselor remarked, “We would have been inundated had there been twenty-five to thirty deaths. We need a mobilized plan of com- munication. It would be a wonderful addition to the campus consider- ing the nature of today’s violent world.” It became apparent during our interviews that better communication could have occurred among the constituents who responded to this incident. Of course, one campus po- lice officer noted, “We can’t have an officer in every building all day long!” But the theme of being prepared across the whole campus was mentioned by several individuals. The lack of a formal plan to deal with such gun incidents was sur- prising, given the existence of formal written plans on campus that ad- dressed various other emergencies: bomb threats, chemical spills, fires, earthquakes, explosions, electrical storms, radiation accidents, torna- does, hazardous material spills, snow storms, and numerous medical emergencies. Moreover, we found that specific campus units had their own protocols that had actually been used during the October gun in- cident. For example, the police had a procedure and used that proce- 586 Journal of Higher Education dure for dealing with the gunman and the students at the scene; the EAP counselors debriefed staff and faculty; the Student Health counse- lors used a “debriefing process” when they visited the students twice in the classroom following the incident. The question that concerned us was, what would a campuswide plan consist of, and how would it be developed and evaluated? As shown in table 2, using evidence gathered in our case, we assem- bled the basic questions to be addressed in a plan and cross-referenced these questions to the literature about post-trauma stress, campus vio- lence and the disaster literature (for a similar list drawn from the public school literature, see Poland and Pitcher yf Basic elements of a cam- pus plan to enhance communication across units should include deter- mining what the rationale for the plan is; who should be involved in its development; how it should be coordinated; how it should be staffed; and what specific procedures should be followed. These procedures might include responding to an immediate crisis, making the campus TABLE 2 Evidence from the Case, Questions for a Campus Plan, and References Evidence from the Case Question for the Plan References Useful Need expressed by counselors Why should a plan be Walker (1990yf developed? Bird et al. (1991yf Multiple constituents reacting Who should be involved in Roark & Roark (1987yf to incident developing the plan? Walker ( 1990yf Leadership found in units with Should the leadership for coor- Roark & Roark (1987yf their own protocols dinating be identified within one office? Several unit protocols being Should campus units be allowed Roark & Roark (1987yf used in incident their own protocols? Questions raised by students What types of violence should Roark (1987yf reacting to case be covered in the plan? Jones (1990yf Groups/individuals surfaced How are those likely to be af- Walker (1990yf during our interviews fected by the incident to be Bromet (1990yf identified? Comments from campus police, What provisions are made for central administration the immediate safety of those in the incident? Campus environment changed How should the physical envi- Roark & Roark (1987yf after incident ronment be made safer? Comments from central How will the external publics Poland & Pitcher (1990yf administration (e.g., press, businessesyf be ap- praised of the incident? Issue raised by counselors and What are the likely sequelae of Bromet (1990yf trauma specialist psychological events for victims? Mitchell (1983yf Issue raised by trauma What long-term impact will the Zelikoff (1987yf specialist incident have on victims? Procedure used by Student How will the victims be Mitchell (1983yf Health counselors debriefed? Walker (1990yf Campus Response to Violence 587 safe, dealing with external groups, and providing for the psychological welfare of victims. Discussion The themes of denial, fear, safety, retriggering, and developing a campuswide plan might further be grouped into two categories, an or- ganizational and a psychological or social-psychological response of the campus community to the gunman incident. Organizationally, the campus units responding to the crisis exhibited both a loose coupling  and an interdependent communication. Issues such as leadership, communication, and authority emerged during the case analysis. Also, an environmental response developed, because the campus was trans- formed into a safer place for students and staff. The need for central- ized planning, while allowing for autonomous operation of units in response to a crisis, called for organizational change that would require cooperation and coordination among units. Sherrill  provides models of response to campus violence that reinforce as well as depart from the evidence in our case. As mentioned by Sherrill, the disciplinary action taken against a perpetrator, the group counseling of victims, and the use of safety education for the campus community were all factors apparent in our case. However, Sherrill raises issues about responses that were not discussed by our in- formants, such as developing procedures for individuals who are first to arrive on the scene, dealing with non-students who might be perpe- trators or victims, keeping records and documents about incidents, varying responses based on the size and nature of the institution, and relating incidents to substance abuse such as drugs and alcohol. Also, some of the issues that we had expected after reading the litera- ture about organizational response did not emerge. Aside from occa- sional newspaper reports (focused mainly on the gunmanyf there was little campus administrative response to the incident, which was con- trary to what we had expected from Roark and Roark , for exam- ple. No mention was made of establishing a campus unit to manage future incidents -for example, a campus violence resource center reporting of violent incidents , or conducting annual safety audits . Aside from the campus police mentioning that the State Health Department would have been prepared to send a team of trained trauma experts to help emergency personnel cope with the tragedy, no discus- sion was reported about formal linkages with community agencies that might assist in the event of a tragedy . We also did not hear directly about establishing a “command center”  or a crisis coordinator , two actions recommended by specialists on crisis situations. 588 Journal of Higher Education On a psychological and social-psychological level, the campus re- sponse was to react to the psychological needs of the students who had been directly involved in the incident as well as to students and staff who had been indirectly affected by the incident. Not only did signs of psychological issues, such as denial, fear, and retriggering, emerge, as expected , gender and cultural group issues were also mentioned, though they were not discussed enough to be considered basic themes in our analysis. Contrary to assertions in the literature that violent be- havior is often accepted in our culture, we found informants in our study to voice concern and fear about escalating violence on campus and in the community. Faculty on campus were conspicuously silent on the incident, includ- ing the faculty senate, though we had expected this governing body to take up the issue of aberrant student or faculty behavior in their class- rooms . Some informants speculated that the faculty might have been passive about this issue because they were unconcerned, but an- other explanation might be that they were passive because they were unsure of what to do or whom to ask for assistance. From the students we failed to hear that they responded to their post-traumatic stress with “coping” strategies, such as relaxation, physical activity, and the establishment of normal routines . Although the issues of gender and race surfaced in early conversations with informants, we did not find a direct discussion of these issues. As Bromet  comments, the sociocultural needs of populations with different mores must be consid- ered when individuals assess reactions to trauma. In regard to the issue of gender, we did hear that females were the first students to seek out counseling at the Student Health Center. Perhaps our “near-miss” case was unique. We do not know what the reaction of the campus might have been, had a death (or multiple deathsyf occurred; although, accord- ing to the trauma psychologist, “the trauma of no deaths is as great as if deaths had occurred.” Moreover, as with any exploratory case analy- sis, this case has limited generalizability , although thematic gener- alizability is certainly a possibility. The fact that our information was self-reported and that we were unable to interview all students who had been directly affected by the incident so as to not intervene in student therapy or the investigation also poses a problem. Despite these limitations, our research provides a detailed account of a campus reaction to a violent incident with the potential for making a contribution to the literature. Events emerged during the process of re- action that could be “critical incidents” in future studies, such as the vic- tim response, media reporting, the debriefing process, campus changes, and the evolution of a campus plan. With the scarcity of literature on Campus Response to Violence 589 campus violence related to gun incidents, this study breaks new ground by identifying themes and conceptual frameworks that could be exam- ined in future cases. On a practical level, it can benefit campus adminis- trators who are looking for a plan to respond to campus violence, and it focuses attention on questions that need to be addressed in such a plan. The large number of different groups of people who were affected by this particular gunman incident shows the complexity of responding to a campus crisis and should alert college personnel to the need for pre- paredness.
Epilogue As we conducted this study, we asked ourselves whether we would have had access to informants if someone had been killed. This “near miss” incident provided a unique research opportunity, which could, however, only approximate an event in which a fatality had actually occurred. Our involvement in this study was serendipitous, for one of us had been employed by a correctional facility and therefore had direct experience with gunmen such as the individual in our case; the other was a University of Iowa graduate and thus familiar with the setting and circumstances surrounding another violent incident there in 1992. These experiences obviously affected our assessment of this case by drawing our attention to the campus response in the first plan and to psychologi- cal reactions like fear and denial. At the time of this writing, campus discussions have been held about adapting the in-place campus emer- gency preparedness plan to a critical incident management team con- cept. Counselors have met to discuss coordinating the activities of dif- ferent units in the event of another incident, and the police are working with faculty members and department staff to help identify potentially violence-prone students. We have the impression that, as a result of this case study, campus personnel see the interrelatedness and the large number of units that may be involved in a single incident. The anniver- sary date passed without incident or acknowledgment in the campus newspaper. As for the gunman, he is still incarcerated awaiting trial, and we wonder, as do some of the students he threatened, if he will seek retribution against us for writing up this case if he is released. The campus response to the October incident continues. References 1. Asmussen, K. J. “Weapon Possession in Public High Schools.” School Safety (Fall 1992yf 28-30. 590 Journal of Higher Education 2. Bird, G. W., S. M. Stith, and J. 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