MSU shooting update: University to ask state for more security money
- Michigan State University will request funds from the Legislature for security enhancements
- Security upgrades may include classroom locks and fewer hours of open access to campus buildings
- An internal security assessment is already underway, and an external review will be conducted later
Michigan State University will ask the Legislature for funds to help enhance campus security in the wake of a Feb. 13 shooting that left three students dead and another five critically wounded.
“We’ve gone from a one- to five-year (security enhancement) plan to a one- to six-month plan,” MSU Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar told Bridge Michigan in an interview Thursday. “And we need money.”
Vassar didn’t say how much money MSU would ask for, but said the needs have “grown exponentially” since last week’s mass shooting.
Rema Vassar is chair of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees (Michigan State University photo)
The board chair also said there will be an external review of security measures at the university in the near future, without elaborating on who would lead that review
Among the possible security enhancements already being discussed among university leaders and police, according to Vassar: classroom door locks, shortened hours when academic buildings are unlocked, and more security cameras.
Such an effort has recent precedent. In May 2022, the Legislature approved $37.5 million to help Oxford High School recover from a deadly November 2021 mass shooting, as well as funding efforts at other schools to try to prevent similar tragedies.
Sen Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, whose district includes the MSU campus and who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Bridge she hasn’t received an official request from Michigan State, but she’s had discussions with Michigan colleges and universities about the need for funding for security enhancements.
“I would assume the colleges will request additional support through the budget process,” Anthony wrote in a text message to Bridge
A lone, 43-year-old gunman walked into Berkey Hall shortly after 8 p.m. Feb. 13 and shot numerous students in a classroom, killing two and injuring several others. That academic building was unlocked, and classroom doors in the building do not lock from the inside.
The gunman then moved from Berkey to the nearby MSU Union, where he shot at least one more student before leaving campus. Hours later, he shot and killed himself when confronted by police off-campus.
The three students killed were Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe Park, Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson and Arielle Diamond Anderson, 19, of Harper Woods.
Vassar, a professor in the department of Administrative and Organizational Studies at Wayne State University’s College of Education, was elected as a Democrat to an eight-year term on the MSU Board of Trustees in 2020, and was chosen by her colleagues to serve as chair in January.
She said she has been meeting daily with MSU administrators since the shooting and had made calls to the families of the slain students.
“I never would have guessed that I would have to call parents and tell them that we are here to support them because their children came to school for an education and did not return home,” Vassar said. “Talking to those parents was several punches to the gut. I mean, it was the hardest thing I’ve done.”
There isn’t a date set for the board or the public to review a security report following the shootings, but Vassar said there are several ideas are already under consideration, including:
- Making active shooter drills mandatory for staff and students. Currently, drills are encouraged, but voluntary.
- Further restricting the hours in which academic buildings are unlocked. Currently, academic buildings are locked after the last classes and extracurricular group meetings are finished, typically by 11 p.m. Vassar said there is discussion of locking doors earlier and limiting access after that time to key-card entry by staff, faculty and students who have reasons to be in the building, such as having a scheduled class. “In the next week to two weeks we should be making some big decisions about access,” Vassar said.
- Adding interior locks to classrooms. Vassar said interior locks can raise their own safety concerns, such as a person with bad intent locking people in and police not being able to enter until a key is found. Vassar said one alternative being considered are doors that can be locked from the inside to keep people out, but can open from the inside by simply pulling down a door handle.
- Installing more security cameras. Currently, the MSU campus has more than 2,000 cameras around its sprawling campus, but those cameras are not connected in one system that allows for real-time monitoring. Even before the shooting, MSU was in the midst of an upgrade to its security camera system, which when completed will allow real-time monitoring of the surveillance footage.
Vassar emphasized that while those and likely other security enhancements are being discussed, nothing has been decided at this point.
“Could anything be improved? That’s yet to be seen,” Vassar said. “Right now there’s an internal investigation around the (security) processes, and there will be an external investigation” led by security experts outside of the university.
MSU Police Chief Marlon Lynch is “working (on a risk assessment report) at a pace beyond our expectations,” Vassar said. “He’s eager to make sure that we are making informed decisions going forward.”
While Vassar anticipates the university taking some type of steps to make students feel safer after the shooting, she said she doesn’t feel the university failed the students who were killed or wounded.
“Where we are in this moment nationally, you could be anywhere” and be a shooting victim, she said. “In Colorado it was a movie theater. In South Carolina, it was a church. There’s just no way to anticipate these attacks.”
Vassar said the campuswide trauma caused by the shooting could influence the board’s search for a new president, after the October resignation of Samuel Stanley.
“I think for me and for the board, compassion and humility and grace are large characteristics and values” that may be even more important in the wake of the tragedy, she said.
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