There is no other way to describe how the LSU community felt following a false armed intruder report at Coates Hall last week. An entire state — and parents nationwide — breathed a sigh of relief. Their children would not be killed in a school shooting on Aug. 20, 2019.
As the panic dissipated and heart rates leveled, a narrative came forward. A plain-clothed law enforcement officer from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office with a gun on his belt was the cause of the false alarm. The officer was invited by the Women’s Center to give a presentation on social media responsibility. Amidst the hazy details of last Tuesday, one thing stands unambiguously clear: A lack of communication exists between those who run the University and those who inhabit it.
The University has no policy concerning law enforcement visiting campus. It is more like a wish. The University prohibits the carrying of firearms on campus, with exceptions for federal, state and local law enforcement. Since last Tuesday, the University Administration has encouraged groups that invite law enforcement to campus to contact LSUPD.
There is not a requirement but more of a courtesy to include LSUPD, according Media Relations director Ernie Ballard.
The University is looking to improve communication, but encouraging groups to act courteously and contact LSUPD is not enough. The University needs a stronger, definitive policy that will ensure student safety and prevent another situation like the one at Coates Hall last week.
No single person or group is at fault for the false alarm last week. Not the law enforcement officer. Not the Women’s Center. Not LSUPD. Not the person who initially made the report. But we, as University students, need to demand better. False alarms that terrify parents and students alike should not happen. Breakdowns in communication between the University and groups that invite law enforcement should not happen.
Has the University done enough to prevent a similar situation like the one at Coates Hall from occurring again? Are there new policies that govern groups and organizations that invite law enforcement to campus? The answer is no.
Students deserve a gun-free sanctuary where education is the top priority and safety is a given. Stronger, well-defined policies are needed, and it is time for the University to act.