Boulder’s False Alarms Raise Alarm in CU Students

Photo: Bobby Jones


University campuses are notoriously becoming more and more susceptible to random acts of violence. With this growing concern in mind, universities can and should do everything in their power to keep their students and faculty safe—something that the University of Colorado Boulder campus failed to do on Oct. 5.

The madness of the day began around 9 a.m. in CU Boulder’s Champion Center, when two police officers shot and killed a man wielding a machete who refused to comply with the officers’ orders to stand down.

Shortly after police killed the man, reports broke out that there was an active shooter on campus. Panic ensued as students fled campus buildings in attempts to find safety: needless attempts, as students were just as safe as they had been before. There was no active shooter, only the suspect wielding the machete, who was finally shot—students faced no gunmane danger.

What happened on the Boulder campus was terrifying and incredibly concerning for the student body and their families. Students felt that their safety was not a top priority to the university, and that the university’s lack of public information hinted at discrepancies in any information that was given out to students and faculty.

Most of the confusion lay within the university’s alert system. Not unlike CU Denver’s alert system, CU Boulder sends texts and emails to students and faculty in the event of an emergency. Students were evacuated from buildings, but only received messages from the alert system 20-30 minutes after doing so, leaving them even more concerned.

Even though the university issued alerts, they were incredibly vague, stating that there were “unconfirmed reports of an active harmer” on campus and that students were told to avoid certain areas and “take protective action.” No additional information was offered to students and faculty.

Understandably, these delayed reports left students confused and afraid for the rest of the day. Many students felt that campus should have been closed and the university should have encouraged students and staff to go home—something nobody was told to do. Additionally, students recall receiving vague and mixed reports—some saying the shooter was detained, others saying that there was no shooter at all—but none of these reports came directly from the university.

The events on CU Boulder’s campus opened a larger dialogue for CU Denver students about the alert system that the Auraria Campus utilizes. These alerts are usually just as vague and offer little to no information on why something may have occurred, nor any information on resolutions. Most recently, students received alerts that the North Classroom building was closed after being evacuated, but many were left speculating about why the building was evacuated in the first place. Similar alerts are issued to students every few weeks, and some are entirely unrelated to Auraria Campus and just happen to be occurring nearby.

Universities should seek transparency in the event of a threat on campus. The terrifying events that unfolded on CU Boulder’s campus suggest that universities need to look further into making information released to students more helpful and less confusing.

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