Dawodu: NU failed us

Zai Dawodu, Op-Ed Contributor

Content warning: This article contains mentions of gun violence and death.

The rise of mass shootings in the U.S. has shown us they are a consistent threat, and Wednesday night, we as a community were reminded of that. In the utmost honesty, we were in no way prepared. 

At around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, I decided to walk near the Lakefill and South Beach to take advantage of the warm weather like many other students. On my walk to campus from my apartment, I began to feel uneasy at the sudden emptiness of the sidewalks and police cars zooming back and forth on Sheridan Road. I walked into Main Library to grab my backpack that I had left there, and seeing the number of students with worried faces told me something was wrong. 

Upon checking my phone, I was met with hundreds of texts from my roommate, friends and Northwestern group chats asking where I was and telling me to stay safe. Among those texts, not a single word from the NU administration, the official source we were looking to. It was only students telling other students about a shooter and sending live updates they found online.

A lot of harm and pain can happen within 30 minutes. People keep saying, “Thank goodness, no Northwestern students were harmed.” But an 18-year-old, someone the same age as many NU students, lost their life, and two more people were injured. No NU students were physically hurt, but it’s terrifying to see how things could have been different. Even though Clark Street Beach is technically not a part of campus, its close proximity, and with students regularly going there, say otherwise. 

When I was walking, I heard multiple loud bangs that I later realized were gunshots. With no official information, I was only able to assume that I should just quickly continue toward the library. Reading through multiple group chats and Instagram posts, I know this was the case for many students. For the students with limited information from texts and Twitter, it still wasn’t much better since we’ve never gone over an active shooter protocol at NU. My roommate was in a room that was unable to lock with 20 other students in Kresge Hall, and many were unsure if it was necessary to barricade the door. When they finally decided to use Kresge’s purple and gray desks with wheels in such a manner, they proved to be useless when other students were able to effortlessly walk in and ask to shelter with them. All of these events happened before any official NU communication about the shooting. 

Most of the official NU emails later sent out had minimal information compared to what student group chats, the student-run Northwestern News Network and my mom living in a different state were all consistently providing me with. The first email that only instructed us to “shelter in place” was extremely disappointing because for the students who have no active shooter training, it meant nothing. Nowhere did the University include its active violence procedure from its website — which my mom sent to me within five minutes of talking to her — that states “run, hide, fight.” Students were scared, and leaving them so unprepared with a lack of information just caused more fear, worry and frustration regarding their safety and that of their peers. 

The later robocall saying, “Blank on the Evanston campus at blank,” felt like a form of mocking us. So many students waited together hoping to finally get some information or a guarantee of their safety, only to be met with that. It further highlights the lack of preparedness of NU during such a crucial time. 

Another thing that was so disheartening about the experience was also the general lack of care about students’ mental health. We know how big of an issue this is on campus, yet the administration didn’t send an email with resources for students until noon Thursday. Having to go to class after a taxing day like Wednesday, especially for people with midterms, is draining. 

A number of students yesterday told me that they have to keep focusing on school since they know their professors will not care and give them no leniency. Students who reported having to take exams with the knowledge of a shooter in the area are clear proof of this. I am already aware of how toxic NU’s work culture can be, but seeing students more stressed about their classes than their personal safety shows a widely accepted misprioritization. What kind of school is this if we put exams over lives? 

For the NU administration: Listen to student demands on how to best provide them safety while taking into consideration how an increased police force on campus might be harmful for POC students. Work on improving and publicizing the active shooter protocol so we never have a repeat of yesterday, and prioritize the well-being of students as number one always when making key decisions. For my NU peers: Stay safe and take care of yourselves. Support your community and let your community support you. Hold the administration accountable.

Zai Dawodu is a Communication junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.