Hundreds Attend WMU Forum on Safety Alerts
Western Michigan University says it’s forming a committee in the hopes of better informing students about off-campus threats to their safety. Western faced criticism for not alerting students this weekend when it learned that a man was apparently shooting people at random as he drove around the community.
Hundreds attended a forum at the Bernhard Center Monday night. Many said they were in town during the rampage and were shocked that Western did not send a message.
The shootings happened off-campus, putting them, school officials said, outside the scope of the Clery Act alerts that students receive about on-campus incidents from armed robberies to gas leaks.
They also noted that no law enforcement agency understood that a shooting spree was underway until late in the evening. The first shooting happened around 6pm in Richland; the second did not occur until after 10 pm in Kalamazoo, and the third and final shooting around 10:30 pm in Oshtemo.
Video evidence pointed to a suspect vehicle, which a law enforcement officer spotted in downtown Kalamazoo around 12:30 am Sunday. Suspect Jason Brian Dalton was arrested without incident, having killed six people and seriously wounded two more.
President John Dunn apologized for falling short of students’ expectations for communicating with them and said the school would look at every option for keeping them better informed in the future.
Vice President for Business and Finance Jan Van Der Kley says Western has already begun to test ways to tell students about off-campus threats, noting that it reached out about an incident Sunday night.
“I don’t know if we got it right last night either, we’ve got to work on it. We tried social media, we tried an announcement. So we are listening and we do plan on doing better,” she says.
University Chief of Police Scott Merlo says Western could probably make better use of social media.
“It is so fast, and you’re right, it’s something that we’ve talked about and we’re going to have to learn a little bit more. And it’s, and I’ve heard the same thing that people on social media were putting things together almost faster than law enforcement,” he says.