Campus officials address safety concerns after Parkland shooting

GVL / Emily Frye    
GVSU students, faulty, and staff stand in solidarity with the victims of the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday February 21.

GVL / Emily Frye GVSU students, faulty, and staff stand in solidarity with the victims of the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday February 21.

Devin Dely

Dozens of students gathered outside the Cook Carillon Tower on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus on Wednesday, Feb. 21, to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. It was a somber event, filled with pictures of victims and emotional words from students looking to make a change. The event, organized by student Brian Bialowas, featured strong words from Maria Cimitile, GVSU provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs.

“We are prepared to deal with this,” she told reporters at Wood TV8 of Grand Rapids on Wednesday. “Even though it’s the most difficult thing to have an assault on humanity, we know what to do.” 

Her words come at a time when many students are questioning if they are safe. Mass shootings have become increasingly common in the U.S., with many students wondering what procedures are in place if a similar tragedy were to occur at their own school. GVSU President Thomas Haas addressed these concerns in a campus-wide email Monday, Feb. 19, reassuring students that GVSU is capable of protecting its students.

“Recent events show the importance of continuous efforts and underscore the importance of working together,” he wrote. “Our collective safety is my top priority. We must all continue to be directly engaged in creating and maintaining the safest possible Grand Valley.” 

The email proceeded to highlight various resources students could access in a potentially suspicious or unsafe situation. GVSU Police Department Acting Director Brandon DeHaan praised Haas for his words, saying that he identified a lot of key points about campus safety. 

“I think what’s important here is that we do have qualified law enforcement officers that are working in the Allendale Campus,” he said. “As a Laker culture, we need to look out for one another.” 

According to DeHaan, universities as a whole have put a lot more work into campus safety since the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007, in which a single gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. 

“We’ve seen a number of changes since 2007,” DeHaan said. “Colleges and universities have begun to adapt. It wasn’t really that high of a priority for many before that.”

GVSU’s adaptation to this new landscape is evident in the training session that took place in Mackinac Hall over winter break. This session, as well as previous ones, was designed to prepare law enforcement officials for an active-shooter scenario. 

“We train annually in response to an active shooter,” DeHaan said. “In fact, this past year, it was the largest training session like this in Ottawa County to date. What changed this past year is we began training with our local fire departments. In the event of an active-shooter situation, they’re the ones that are going to be called, and they need to be trained in how to get injured people out as quickly as possible.”

DeHaan discussed the various ways the university is making an effort to keep students safe, including the underutilized text alert system and the presence of emergency coordinators on campus. The coordinators are faculty members who have received active-shooter training and CPR certification and are able to help in case of an emergency. 

He also addressed the issue of mass shootings as a whole, urging students to work to band together as a community to prevent tragedies. 

“In virtually all the cases, someone knew something—there was some sort of action someone could take,” DeHaan said. “Really, what we’re seeing is there’s information out there that someone could have notified authorities about to take some type of action. It’s very important that our community look out for one another, and if they see something, they need to say something, and they need to say it to the appropriate authorities.” 

Additional information about emergency procedures and policies, as well as a comprehensive emergency plan, can be found on the GVPD website at