Merced stabbing causes concern for CLU’s safety

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According to nbcnews.com, college freshman Faisal Mohammad carried out a stabbing spree at the University of California, Merced on Nov. 4, before being shot and killed by police.

Although there were no fatalities on Mohammad’s part, this recent event has prompted questions about California Lutheran University’s own safety measures from preventing possible on-campus attacks.

Tanvi Patel, assistant director of The Writing Center, used to teach at UC Merced and said that although it is small, the campus is quite diverse in both its atmosphere and culture. 

“At UC Merced there are 40 percent Hispanic [students] so it’s a university that is catering more to an underrepresented minority group of students on purpose. At Cal Lutheran the students are used to the L.A. culture, so there’s differences in terms of their upbringing and their social economic status,” Patel said.

Despite the different environments on both campuses, Patel said that these particular attacks can happen anywhere as the situation depends on the individual student.

“This was one guy and it wasn’t a group mentality or a culture at that university that egged him on. I hope it doesn’t happen here, but the potential is there because you don’t know what kind of backgrounds, mental issues or triggers students come in with,” Patel said.

Fred Miller, former director of Campus Safety, said he thought about making a proposal to arm the campus safety officers at Cal Lutheran. However, Miller said he did not believe he had institutional support which is one of the reasons he retired.

“My question to the CLU administration has always been ‘what do you expect Campus Safety officers to do to protect students until police arrive if you refuse to provide the officers without even the basic equipment?’ Things your staff, faculty and students can carry but not your officers,” Miller said in an email interview.

At Cal Lutheran, the Campus Safety department adheres to its policy of not arming its officers with lethal weaponry such as firearms, as the Thousand Oaks Sheriff Department is located in close proximity on Olsen Road.

According to Miller’s research, Cal Lutheran is one of two Southern California private schools to not allow officers to even carry non-lethal weaponry such as pepper spray or hand-held tasers.

“As of when I left, the officers at CLU were instructed to observe and report only. They did not carry the defensive tools to protect themselves or others should they be the first to respond to a stabbing, fight or shooting. I firmly believe there is no con to arming the officers other than a cost factor,” Miller said.

Ryan Van Ommeren, associate vice president of Facilities, Operation and Planning, said that he considers Cal Lutheran Campus Safety officers to be professional at what they do.  However it is a different type of professional than that of law enforcement.

“We have professional [Campus Safety] officers that deal with the preventative issues, assistance and documentation. [But] we want to rely on a sheriff as they usually deal with violent confrontation and have had professional training,” Van Ommeren said.

Van Ommeren said that the sheriff’s department has conducted several live drills on campus, including two in the past year. They have also coached Cal Lutheran’s emergency operations team on the best shooter practices.

“It’s a willful strategy on our part to not arm our officers as we want the detaining process to be done by law enforcement. We believe we have a strong role internally, but virtually with every incident on campus, we don’t want [Campus Safety] to be engaged directly in the law enforcement process,” Van Ommeren said.

Although Cal Lutheran’s Campus Safety officers are informed on what to do procedurally after an on-campus attack occurs, educating students on what to do is a completely different issue.

“Some people say the right answer in this kind of situation is to have all [of] us charge at the gunman or the stabber. That might be theoretically the right thing, but I don’t think in practice anyone’s going to actually do that. Conversation and knowing policies on how to react is best,” Patel said.

Leina Rayshouny
Staff Writer
Published November 18th, 2015