Officials Reassure Students After Marywood Gun Incident


The welcoming Marywood University arch located at the entrance of their campus. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lena Williams, Reporter

While a firearms incident on the campus of Marywood University raises questions about emergency notification procedures, Safety officials assure students that the university’s emergency protocol will work to ensure the safety of the campus community and timely communication.

The Marywood student, who faces multiple charges in connection with his alleged possession of guns and ammunition on Marywood’s campus  in October, was an Army National Guardsman, police said.

Marywood’s campus safety and  local police quickly contained the situation after students alerted them.  But local news organizations have reported that some students felt that the university should have notified students, faculty and staff sooner.

Sophomore nursing major Jordan Barth, a former Marywood student, said the incident took her by surprise.

“The campus environment is a very small and close environment, and anyone can be made to feel welcomed and safe. From a women’s perspective, I have never experienced fear walking by myself. It sent chills down my body to hear how this type of situation can happen on a small campus located in residential area, and it made me think how easily something like this could happen on a much larger campus,” Barth said.

Robert Zavada, Director of Campus Safety, said, thankfully, there has been no comparable situation on campus.

“There have been incidents in the surrounding community where we have put alerts out as soon as we got the information from the local law enforcement. It comes to mind that last summer we had multiple injuries at the local Weis market, which involved an individual who attempted to stab a few people who happened to be Misericordia students. We monitor those type of occurrences on the local police channel and put out an alert to inform the campus of what is going on,” Zavada said.

“Our primary source of communication to the campus community is MU alert which is a subscriber service that sends emails and text message to efficiently inform students, faculty and staff about every emergency, cancellations, or delays due to poor weather conditions,” he said.

The mission of Campus Safety is to support the educational objectives of the institution, and to maintain a safe and secure environment for all members of the campus community and visitors. Officers maintain  a 24-hr presence on campus, immediately responding to calls for service and security and management of buildings, Zavada said. But determining the best and safest course of action during an active emergency can be complex, he said.

“Putting out an initial warning [of a shooter] can potentially put someone in harm’s way. If we instruct those on campus to evacuate, we could accidentally lead them towards a hot area.”

Zavada said Safety will contact local law enforcement and coordinate efforts to resolve the situation. Officers and law enforcement must first contain an incident before issuing any type of communication, he said.

John Boylin senior physical therapy major, said he is hopeful that he will never experience an emergency on campus.

“I feel it would be a scary situation, and I hope campus safety and the police would respond quickly. Hopefully, it wouldn’t happen at Misericordia because the campus is so small. I would like campus safety to notify everyone as soon as possible, so that we are aware of what to do.Over the decades, there have been many public shootings and attacks.

According to TIME magazine, there were 23 college campus shootings in 2015. There have been 12 mass shootings during the past two decades with a total of 245 people killed, according to National Public Radio.