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Being a prior service college student is a strange experience sometimes. In some respects it’s like being a character on the Twilight Zone: you see things others do not. I had the occasion to visit a university office which shared its building with a four-story dormitory. As I waited in the office, a cable installer visited the twenty-something receptionist. She handed over the log, let the guy sign the binder and gave him a master key without verifying a single piece of ID. Sure he was wearing a company jacket with the company logo, but that didn’t mean squat . . .

A bad guy with planning skills, a credit card and time could gain access to any building on campus they wish with only a cable company blazer and a smile. That’s just one security hole I noticed, but hardly the only one.

This university makes a big deal about key card access and locked doors at their  residence halls. Unfortunately, smokers and good samaritans routinely prop the side doors open for strangers. Friends let other friends into their buildings routinely as well, so a social group with people living in different buildings conceivably has free reign to enter and exit any dorm building they have collective access to.

Another weakness: law enforcement’s physical location. Due to an intentionally convoluted road system, driving to a crisis scene isn’t an option. A LEO answering a call would have to zig zag all over the campus before reaching any specific building. It doesn’t help that the police station is on the far north end of the campus, so may God have mercy on anyone in need of police assistance on the south side of campus.

Lastly, we come to the classrooms themselves. Said rooms are laid out with the intent to facilitate learning. Unfortunately this also means the rooms are deathtraps. There’s no other way to put it.

One entry or exit, no cover, barely any concealment worth the term and the exit is secured by a cheap door which is easily kicked in. Once an attacker has gained entry, literally the only option left to a classroom full of people is to shoot back. Escape is not an option.

Except guns are banned at most universities. Why? Mostly because university staffers know as much about site security as Marines know about interior decorating. Their worldview just doesn’t encompass reacting to human violence, so a great many of them genuinely think it doesn’t exist. It’s one thing to see an 18-year-old freshman act like human beings don’t routinely assault each other. It’s another to see grey-haired men and women twice my age hold the same attitude. It wouldn’t be so bad if these people weren’t responsible for the college and the welfare of factuality, staff and students.

Thus firearms on campus isn’t a security issue for them because remember, the administrators and staff don’t believe in violence or the need for force no matter how it’s delivered. It’s a ideological challenge to their core belief system because they’ve built their careers on educating people to reject violence. Campus carry, to them, is like ordering a mosque to accept Jewish rabbis as honored guests. The act of carry is a challenge to their very worldview, which is why college administrators would rather your son, daughter, niece sister or brother be assaulted or shot to death than take concrete steps to secure the learning environment.

On the flip side, parents, please take the time to educate your kids about making good choices. No, I don’t mean booze or weed. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a young woman jogging around this urban campus at zero dark thirty, I’d buy out Micheal Bloomberg’s corporate empire. I’m a 6′ 1″ military vet and I do my late night running at the gym.

Teach your kids about mindset and knowing how to avoid selecting yourself for a bad time of things. They’ll be on their own in a far away place, probably for the first time, forced by law or policy to delegate their personal security to an uncaring bureaucracy. Failing a math test may hurt their grade point average, but failing at situational awareness can be life or death.

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    • Let go of the self-loathing, embrace the dust ruffle/duvet. Marines do interior decorating all the time. MOUT/CQB, Javelin through window, the ever skilled 81mm as window dressing. Don’t forget, all those items that would have failed a health and comfort, make excellent conversation pieces and spruce up the bachelor pad. Embrace it my brother, Semper Fi.

      • And if you are having trouble matching the carpet to the wall paint, call the USAF and request a few runs from your friendly local Warthog squadron, or a quick pass from the B-52s. Instant urban renewal!

  1. I’m a scout and I too suck at interior decorating but I accel at situational awareness and not jogging or walking at oh dark thirty

  2. Good article, ST, but be careful — I know some seriously badass interior decorators. They are all armed and ready.

    As far as campus security is concerned, the very phrase is an oxymoron. I’m sure that Ted Bundy would agree.

  3. I’m Navy. I’d rather have the Marines guard our bases like they used to back in the old days. I just don’t think that the Navy’s MAs/MPs are adequate enough. They currently use Navy personnel to guard the gates during the day time. At night, mostly contract security. It’s really sad.

    • That’s because the government doesn’t trust you with guns.

      Billion dollar battleships (figuratively) – but not handguns and rifles.

  4. Academics live in a whole ‘nuther world than the real one. Security is just one of the many things about which they have no grounding in reality.

    • Which explains why they think that if they install call stations with flashing blue lights, give out rape whistles, and declare that the campus is a gun free zone then everything will be fine. It’s almost like these things are talismans.

      I guess given their belief system, they are-until reality crashes the party.

  5. “… which is why college administrators would rather your son, daughter, niece sister or brother be assaulted or shot to death than take concrete steps to secure the learning environment.”

    Absolutely true. I remember many, many years back ASIS (security trade organization, for those who don’t know) published an issue of their mag devoted entirely to campus security. Aimed primarily at the campus security folks. Everything from locks and flashlights to bulletproof guard shacks.

    As I cruised through life with kids and now grandkids on a variety of campuses I see a lot of the “easy” hardware illustrated in that issue from last decade in place now. But the procedures to use them properly? A gruesome joke to anyone with a physical security background. Using the stuff right is just too hard. Sad but true.

  6. It does vary y campus. University of Chicago is protected by the CPD–which is pretty important given that it is in the middle of a ghetto–and crime on campus is low. Just don’t venture off campus alone, especially at night. University of San Francisco is protected by dedicated patrols of the SFPD, and again physical security of the campus is good, despite the common practices of leaving self-closing doors braced ajar for smokers and students who do not want to be bothered with getting through security at the desk. Rural campuses probably have next to no security–but next to no issues except from the local “townies” who troll for targets of opportunity,

    But the point of the story is well taken. Remember that most of the academics have never left the confines of the campus for any real world functions living in a cocoon gives rise to a false sense of security.

  7. At my college we were miles from the nearest police and had one security guard (unarmed afaik) up there part time. All we ever had was some thefts from dorms (unlocked except at night) from hikers, but I do recall my friend calling 911 after some guy drove up, unloaded a rifle and ammo from his trunk…apparently he just headed up into the woods nearby and was illegally parking on our campus (and illegally shooting either on private land or in a national park nearby). But had he been a threat…well the police took 30 minutes to respond…and that was a traffic free day.

    The school did once high some scary looking guards that were packing (tech. concealed, but not trying hard) when we had a threat against the campus. But sadly no guns on campus…they used to allow it, but I was told insurance would throw a fit (this was after discussing with some faculty about setting up a gun range). So instead one of the faculty members who lived close to campus would store student guns in his gun safes… a pity too…probably one of very few colleges where I know many in the administration have guns.

  8. As a University student who has been carrying for a little over a year now, all I can say is this. My LCP hasn’t made me or anyone else less safe, nobody has found it, and it hasn’t distracted anyone else’s learning.

  9. The next generation will be educated online and will never have to step foot on campus, so campus carry is ultimately a temporary fix.

    The education system in this country is digging it’s own grave as fast as it can. The first 2 years of college are squandered getting your GED (effectively). It takes $50,000 in debt just to get the level of education our grandfathers had when they quit school after the eighth grade. All that federal grant money has fattened up the calf (universities) at the expense of the student. Diminishing returns on escalating investments. You’re not considered an adult now until your 26, do you really think you’ll be retiring at 65? The state of physical protection of our students might be in gawdawful shape, but it’s still better then the bargain (sic) they’re getting for their/our dollar when it comes to actual knowledge. It’s a miracle China hasn’t passed us up already.

  10. Look, I am all for an ordered society with people working together for their own good as well as the common good, etc. etc. etc. And I support a nation of laws, etc. etc. etc. I am even on board with certain “infringements” to our liberties — such as conventions for travel, i.e. pedestrians walk on sidewalks, cars drive on roads, and everyone (including bicycles) drives on the right side of the road. In these examples citizens give up the liberty to walk in the middle of the street and motorists give up the liberty to drive on sidewalks for the obvious good of themselves and everyone else. More importantly, while citizens give up such liberties, giving up those liberties does not prevent them from traveling successfully with pretty much no inconvenience whatsoever. For example the pedestrian who gave up walking in the middle of the street was able to walk on the sidewalk without any impact on their ability to get to the desired destination.

    Now contrast those examples of giving up rights with the situation at gun-free zones such as university campuses. In that setting a university tells citizens that they must give up their right to bear firearms in order to keep the environment “safe”. There are two problems with this. First, absolutely nothing about unarmed citizens makes the environment safe. This is a quantitative statement, not a qualitative statement. We know that a non-trivial number of violent crimes occur on university campuses. And we also know that pretty much zero accidents involving firearms happens on university campuses. Therefore by definition disarming the citizens on campus does not make them safe. Second, and more importantly, there is no alternative way for an individual without a firearm to effectively defend themselves from a violent attacker. This is the crux of the problem with gun free zones and rights.

    If universities claimed that banning long guns would somehow make the university safer but did not ban carry of handguns, that could almost be palatable because an alternative and proven effective method exists for an individual to defend themselves (with a handgun). I am not advocating this example. I am simply illustrating my point.

  11. On a different vein why do citizens feel obligated to follow laws that violate their inalienable rights and put their lives at risk? If government passed a law that made it illegal to wear hats, why should bald men who spend lots of time in the sun follow that law? After all, following that law would wildly increase their risk of getting skin cancer on their head.

    Well, being unarmed anywhere wildly increases your risk of being seriously injured or killed in a violent attack. So why does anyone feel obligated to follow laws that disarm them?

    • Why? Because the justice system is evil. It’s a matter of balancing risks:
      If I dont carry illegally, I’ll probably be fine and I’ll get home without being raped. If I DO carry illegally, I probably won’t get caught, but if I do, I’ll be put in jail where I most definitely WILL be raped.

      This isn’t Mayberry anymore. Those “heroes” that are just-doing-their-jobs would rather not use good judgment and send you on your way–they’d rather see you raped in jail on the taxpayers dime.

      That’s why.

  12. If the university the article is referring to is the one pictured, I can vouch for it’s security lapses. I was a student there from 2003-2008.

    One day after crashing at a friend’s dorm the previous night, I realized I had left my key and ID in my own room…I was locked out. I went to the dorm office, and without showing proof that I was a student or resident of that dorm, was given a MASTER KEY TO THE WHOLE DORM. Oh, and by the way, this was the day of the 2004 Bush/Kerry Presidential debate which was held on the campus. (Interesting that snipers on every rooftop and armed security everywhere seemed more more effective than the gun free zone signs when the president is involved, huh?)

    After a student was raped after her dorm room was broken into in 2009, I promised them they won’t see a dime until the security issues on that campus were resolved.

  13. As a member of academia who has a healthy dose of situational awareness, nearly every day going into school sets off red flags about potential threats that I can (by law) not do anything to protect myself against. Campus carry would be a good start, but even then most of the designs of the buildings at my school are very poor from a security standpoint. Large buildings with generally only 2-4 entrance/exits. A small group of armed people would have hundreds trapped quite easily.

  14. When I went to a small New England school in the eighties, a kindly old gent worked the night shift at the guard shack over night 6 of 7. That was the only road entrance to campus though you could walk in anywhere. This old gent had been a PMC working on the Shah’s personal detail and he carried a Browning HP and at least four mags. Sunday nights were an off duty sherries deputy who was studying for something… The old gent was the head of the security team and lead by example. Good man. When he retired and after I graduated, Wayne Lo shot the guard in the shack and then proceeded to kill a professor who was a friend and mentor of mine. Then he killed the best friend of my young brother in law.

    Personally, several years before that crime when I was a returning student, I kept an M1 carbine and seven mags in what you would now call an “active shooter” bag. I lived in the isolated “upper class” student housing and didn’t like the set up in armed. Yes, I broke the rules and no, nobody knew about it. I would have carried a Glock 19 if I had one. Heinlein had an effect on me and I didn’t follow bad laws. I was right and prepared, a few years later, others weren’t.

    Campus violence effected me and my family directly and I am absolutely pro armed students.


  15. I’m in second year at college using the money I earned from my Uncle Sam and schools security is a joke.

    It’s a bunch of unarmed, over weight, 19 yr old slobs that look like they could get laid in a monkey whorehouse with a fist full of bananas or unarmed, retired, grandpas that probably couldn’t fight their way out of paper bag.

    It’s not security, it’s a paid witness.

  16. Freaking out about statistically improbable security concerns is what brought us the TSA and the surveillance state. Agitating for “Campus security” will do the same thing – move funds from education to useless, intrusive security measures that make no one safer. It will also get you even further from campus carry, as that will present a threat to the newly empowered security apparatus. The campus I teach on has started, and the net result is that we have the call stations you are correctly mocking, and it is becoming steadily harder for students to get to useful resources at odd hours, which is frankly pretty central to the college experience. We aren’t any safer, just dumber.

    If you want adult students to have a gun if it makes them feel safer, I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but this kind of fear-mongering will accomplish exactly the opposite.

  17. I am a college student in a high crime California city. My college actually has a great security force. We have at least 2 cruisers on campus at all times, both with shotguns and AR-15s in the car. We also have emergency phones located all over campus, so you are never further than 100 feet from one. Response time is usually 30 seconds or less. It’s a small campus.

    Of course, that doesn’t help when a school shooter starts going from classroom to classroom. I don’t expect any heroics from those college security guards. And that is why I carry a can of bear spray in my backpack at all times. It’s not as good as a gun, but I won’t get in trouble if I get caught. The penalties would not be nearly as high as if I had a glock in my backpack, and I can always use the “I just got back from camping” excuse.

    Also, bear spray is very effective. 30 foot range, which means that I can cover the door of any classroom from behind cover. And when you get hit with the stuff, you are not going to be an effective threat anymore. Not as good as a gun, but a close second.

  18. Freedom breeds free markets, free markets breeds prosperity, prosperity breeds complacency. Then, as we all know, shit happens. What’s surprising is the alarming repetitiveness in which this all too predictable shit happens. Build a civilized society,
    get complacent, fall into ruin, start over. Wash, let sit, rinse, repeat.

    Would you like some architectural irony with your complacency? From whose architectural minds did the concept of housing people in stacks of boxes first spring? That’s right, it’s communism’s answer to central housing for the masses. It’s no mystery why these dorms are undefendable death traps and why they look like little compartmentalized ant farms. If you want people to behave as insects in a collective, then you condition them to live as insects in a collective. The dependency of, and loyalty to, the hive.
    In the collective,…everyone is expendable.

    • Actually, vertically-oriented buildings to provide cheap housing for the expendable masses is not a Soviet idea, but a Roman one. They were building 4-6 floor tenements in Rome by at least the 2nd century. More people per square foot was the driver and a (not that strong) version of concrete was the enabler. I do think the Soviets raised the bar, though, on hideously ugly and efficient housing. Note that this does not invalidate your argument about the collective (just adding a historical tidbit for the day).

  19. For the record, I think that the camouflage tarps I’m using as curtains are quite stylish indeed.

    Cmon, it was cheaper than blinds, and just the basement…

  20. Campus carry is the one area of a bunch of otherwise good gun laws where the state of Florida has its head firmly up its ass.

    • I agree. FSU has a campus police department yet opted out of the parking lot law for securing weapons as did U.F. I am sure Ted Bundy appreciated this mentality back during he terror spree. I am sure all the armed robbers appreciated it on the FSU campus in 2012 and in 2013 as well. Obviously, the administration sees a need for an armed police dept. However, they also seem to think it was smart to use unarmed guards in high crime areas.

      Scroll down to the June 14, Degraff hall robbery where the security guard was robbed of his light, cell phone and radio at gun point on FSU campus.

      FSU would have been better off hiring 1 more sworn officer than all the unarmed guards combined.

  21. I avoid free fire zones. These “gun free” zones are like magnets for crazy people, like active shooters [and professors]. As long as I avoid colleges, I avoid having to defend myself against a mass shooting or a radical professor. Luckily, in this time in my life and career, I do not need to go back to college.

  22. When I was a college student in the mid 90’s the campus I attended had a no guns policy, get this, even if you lived off campus. I have no idea what the enforcement mechanism was but I suppose they intended to expel you if you so much as had a gun in private off campus housing. I lived in said housing and of course possessed a gun. At the time Ohio had no concealed carry law and so carrying concealed was problematic, and with the effective global ban on student firearms ownership open carry was also right out.

    What resulted was a hodge podge of deciding when to risk felony arrest and expulsion by unlawfully carrying concealed and when to risk victimization by going about unarmed. I eventually solved some of this dilemma by joining the fencing team and taking up the cutlass as my instrument. Certainly not a gun, but in even semi-trained hands an imposing weapon within it’s range, and one which I could carry literally everywhere on campus and through the town strangely without drawing any attention.

    These days as I tool up each morning I sometimes laugh at my college EDC. I was positioned to be the DCU of the century, I mean really, how often is a cutlass employed as a weapon these days?

    On a less funny note my college campus had a serial rapist, a double homicide and broad daylight kidnapping. I won’t say it was a dangerous place, but it wasn’t exactly a crime free utopia either.

    I’ll never truly understand those who do not wish to be armed. It seems to me irresponsible and impractical to go about lacking the means of effective defense. That is their right however, to eschew weapons and put on the brassard so to speak, though it comes with no protection. What troubles more is when they extend their madness to wishing that others not be armed either. I suppose some people just don’t get that their rights end where mine begin.

  23. back in the late 90s, i used to walk the campus of the University of Alabama all night when i couldn’t sleep. I stuck to the Quad most times. i had to admit that at 2 a.m., i felt safer there than in my backyard back home (rural AL at 2 a.m. had lots of feral dogs, coyotes, and other things to worry about.) I have visited other campuses and instantly felt unsafe. I think since colleges are always filled with protestors fighting for all kinds of causes, i would feel okay buying my child a pistol and helping them get a CCW permit, and tell them carrying to every class is a “silent protest” against the victim-state universities want. Believe me, the day a killer kicks in a door and starts spraying, if my kid defended his/her self, the other classmates would not complain about the gun they brought to class. too happy to be alive.

  24. Is it just me, or…?
    wife put a huge box of donuts, clearly labled, on the dining room table. Visiting, grown son can’t find it! We’re standing right there laughing, as we eat our donuts, and he cries out, where’s the donuts?

    Another one… Saw a KFC carry out bag in the trash. I don’t eat hormone growths, but, I commented that he just ate a KFC lunch. Grown son asks me “How do yhou know these things?”!

    Neighbor kids, and teen friends, are great, and play basketball in their driveway, after school, but, one attempt slammed my 20 year old Ford F-150. I heard it, didn’t much care, except they all ran in dire stress, in all directions! So, in an attempt to examine if there was any damage bad enough that I would have to pull the dent, I went outside, and asked the neighbor boy why everyone ran, when I know all, and where they live, and their parents!

    I mean, situational awareness, hyper alert, are my middle name! That is who veterans are!

    The under 30 generation is in serious straits, because they are too attentive to their texting and headphoned music! I know why there are so many folks caught up in any disaster!

    The bad news is, they blame us, when we attempt to educate them, to survival skills, and their responsibilities for their own survival, that could jeopardize our own!

  25. I do not pretend to know about security for campus buildings but I am waist deep in pre-construction for a new academic building. From what I understand of code, classrooms only need one door up to a certain size (around 1000sf) and then they need two. Doors are standard commercial grade doors with good door hardware. I would doubt mos institutional hardware could be easily kicked in. If it is residential grade, no question, but in an institutional environment you have metal door frames with solid core doors with decent hardware. Splitting hairs in the name of facts. I have to disarm every time I go to a meeting on a college campus in GA. In TN you can carry on campus now, so I am told.

  26. I always had a problem with the front desk operations in the entry way of most dorms. I had a girlfriend who was a RA at the time and when she was working the desk her job was to stop people to have them sign in and make them wait for whoever they were visiting to come down and get them. Sometimes it could be her alone there at 2am, other times a couple of her friends might be there. I never could wrap my head around the sense in creating such opportunity for something to go wrong especially since her job (or whoever was at the desk) was to challenge anyone who attempted to enter the building.

    Case in point, one evening she was working the desk and a gentleman (who was already banned form entry to any building on campus) attempted to enter, he wasn’t visiting anyone and just wanted to wander the halls to try and sell drugs (this was determined later). She refused him entry and he left the foyer but milled around outside the building entryway until campus safety finally showed up and removed him (fortunately campus safety were real police at her school). Fortunately everything went well, but even after this encounter my girlfriend couldn’t quite comprehend the inherent danger in the desk job and good luck trying to get this across to anyone else. It was like it was an accepted risk to be in danger to do that job, no one could see or would admit to the potential for something very bad to happen. A position that is totally absurd, to put a defenseless and often female college student in.

  27. My goodness, how times have changed for the better since the bad old days! In 1967 (pre-68 GCA), I ordered (through the mail!) a Ruger 10-22 carbine. It was delivered to me at my dorm address, and I kept it in my dorm room! I would sling it over a shoulder and walk through campus to go plinking in the woods.

    NO ONE PANICKED! I NEVER KILLED ANYONE WITH IT!! I know, that is just tooo shocking. Thank goodness we live in more enlightened times now.

  28. There are more guns on campus than many realize. I carried a Glock through my last three years of college, and then all of law school. And I know that I wasn’t the only one. If they day ever came that I had to use it, I was prepared to deal with the aftermath.


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