By Rachel Gobep
The Youngstown State University community was sent into a panic this past December after receiving a Penguin Alert — the campus was in lockdown.
“THE CAMPUS IS IN LOCKDOWN. A SUSPECT IS CURRENTLY AT LARGE WITH FIREARM. LAST SEEN BY REC CENTER,” the alert read.
Students, faculty and staff were instructed to lock all exterior, office and classroom doors, but concerns arose after classroom doors did not lock. This is an issue that the YSU Police Department and university facilities addressed over the summer.
One-hundred and thirty six classroom doors now automatically lock when shut.
John Hyden, associate vice president of facilities maintenance, said if the door is closed, it is locked.
“The only way that you can get the door open from the hallway … is to put a key in it, turn the key,” he said. “The mechanism will be unlocked when the key is in it. As soon as you take the key out, the door returns to the locked position.”
YSU Police Chief Shawn Varso said a lot of concerns arose after the lockdown, with doors not locking being the most popular issue.
He said in the event of a lockdown, all someone needs to do now is shut the door.
As a result, faculty members were issued keys for each of their classrooms. The only people who have access to keys are faculty, chairs, deans, facilities and YSU Police.
Isabella Orr, a junior integrated math major, said she was in Lincoln Hall when the lockdown occurred. The door to her classroom did not lock and opened outward, making it nearly impossible to barricade the entryway.
“About half way through the lockdown [a staff member let] us know that the exterior building doors did not lock either, so we were going to move to a classroom that did,” Orr said. “But, when the class was told that, we all kinda looked around like we’ve been sitting in a classroom in an unlocked building with a potential gunman running around.”
She said the fact that the doors now lock makes her feel safer.
“Nobody thinks it could happen at their school, or their town, until it does,” Orr said.“It’s a tragic thing we have to worry about, but the fact it was brought to our attention — how unprepared YSU would’ve been — is a good thing. So I’m glad there are things being done to address it.”
There were also updates to the university’s Campus Emergency Management Plan.
“Over the year, prior to the lockdown incident, we were revamping our emergency plans on campus,” Varso said. “We had one main campus emergency plan … which actually … gave a broad overview of what the campus would do in the event of an emergency.”
The university has 25 new Emergency Operation Plans across campus, new emergency response signage in all classrooms as an education campaign and an expanded Penguin Alert emergency messaging system.