The University of Nebraska at Kearney campus was shaken up on February 17th around 11:30 pm when the UNK alert system sent out a message notifying the public that a male subject reported to police that he had a loaded firearm and was going to shoot himself on campus. All community members were asked to stay off campus and individuals on campus were to stay inside a secure area. The UNK alert system notified the public around 2:30 am that law enforcement agencies checked all buildings across campus and no armed individual was located. Individuals were allowed to return to normal activities. Kelly Bartling, the UNK Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communications and Community Relations said classes would continue as scheduled.
Events like this make students more cautious and aware of their surroundings. Many questioned their safety and some classes were poorly attended. Journalism Professor Tereca Diffenderfer said she received emails from students saying they would not be attending class because they were worried about their safety and some commented that they felt uneasy about walking by the emergency phone located outside the library where the male subject called in.
This is a good opportunity to remind students of the many services offered to them by UNK. The college offers services ranging from healthcare, counseling, safe walk services, free self-defense classes, and many safety presentations. Many students either do not know about these services or they choose not to utilize them, even though they are included in their student fees.
Counseling Care is a mental health clinic on campus that offers confidential personal counseling to students. Students enrolled in seven or more credits a semester already pay for the counseling service in their student fees. Anyone enrolled in fewer credits can pay the fee to receive the services. Part of the Counseling and Health Care Department is The Women’s Center. The center employs health care professionals who receive crisis intervention specialty training through Kearney’s relationship violence and domestic abuse shelter, the SAFE Center. The center provides resources and support to women who need help.
Safe Walk is a program where students who feel unsafe walking alone at night can call in and request an escort from any location within two blocks of campus to a safe building.
Safety education and training, as well as self-defense classes are offered for free to students at different times throughout the year. Campus police officers give presentations on abuse, drugs and alcohol, date rape, and other serious issues. These presentations are meant to inform students and encourage them to seek help or report any problems to health care and counseling professionals or the police.
The health and safety of students and employees is a priority for UNK. Although they provide many services for students, they don’t always market them in ways that allow for all students to know about them. While the university can do a better job of reaching students, the students also have to take an active role in their health and safety. The services, like Safe Walk, aren’t going to be of any help to students if they don’t have the number programmed into their phones. It shouldn’t take an event like this scare for students to know the resources available and be able to use them.