More information on last week’s College Hall incident has come to light, and new safety precautions are being put in place to help students and staff feel safer on campus.
On Sept. 14, a white man broke into a College Hall classroom and made targeted statements toward the professor teaching in the classroom, who is a woman of color.
The professor impacted by the incident, who asked not to be named, said that she felt the incident was motivated by both race and gender. The professor discussed the incident in her class, and she said her students agree with her on this statement.
According to the professor, the man who broke into her classroom first opened the classroom door and tried to get her to come outside and made statements about Black Lives Matter and the Anti-Defamation League.
The man was already agitated, but after she declined, the professor said the man became angry and opened the classroom door and began yelling statements about how the FBI and police would come after her.
Upon entering the classroom, the man grabbed a mug off the lectern at the front of the room and came halfway into the room, as the professor began backing up slowly because she was afraid he would attack her with the mug, she said.
The man then dropped the mug, shattering it, then slowly backed out of the classroom while keeping his eyes on her, she said. Before leaving, he also flipped her off and called her a “b****.”
“As a faculty of color, there’s not that many of us on campus, and I don’t know if he went to other classrooms so this is speculation, but I noticed that when he left nobody seemed to know what had happened, so it really felt like it [wasn’t] like he went door to door and found some door that was open and came in, it felt like he came in my classroom specifically and then left after that,” the professor said.
After the man left, she quickly locked the door and pushed a desk in front of it. One of the students in the classroom called campus security and was on hold before campus security came to take their statements, she said.
Later that day, an email about the incident was sent out to all undergraduate students, which omitted some details about what happened, including the fact that the man entered the classroom and made targeted statements toward the professor.
After the first email was sent out, some students filed bias incident reports because the email did not accurately reflect what had happened.
The professor then heard from campus security asking about the incident, and a second email was sent out the day after the incident by Kent Porterfield, vice provost for student affairs, with updated information.
“The difference between the first response and the second response was directly a result of students and the work that they did, and I think it’s important to emphasize that they are aware of these things and thankfully they did send out that second email, but I mean you know, I think me and my students were surprised at that first email because it didn’t reflect anything of what we shared,” the professor said.
The student who called campus security, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed what happened and said she was frustrated that the first email incorrectly represented the situation.
She also said the class was frustrated because it did not feel like campus security was on their side.
According to another email pertaining to the incident that was sent out on Sept. 17, all campus buildings now require Zagcard access for entry. Additionally, all classroom door locks are being checked to ensure they are working properly.
For buildings that might have non-GU visitors, such as the John J. Hemmingson Center or the admissions office in College Hall, it will be up to the building managers of those spaces to decide on visitor protocols going forward, said Becky Wilkey, director of Campus Security and Public Safety (CSPS).
The email also said that Phil Tyler, CSPS crime prevention and education officer, will be offering classroom safety training to faculty with a priority for faculty who identify as BIPOC.
The training will include creating a plan on how to best respond in an emergency for the classroom space they have, Wilkey said.
Wilkey will also be coordinating procedural justice training for all campus security faculty. Procedural justice training involves training campus security officers to switch gears from response mode to caretaking mode, Wilkey said.
Eric Baldwin, assistant vice president for student well-being and healthy living, elaborated on this point and said procedural justice involves seeing the identity of those who are impacted by a situation, hearing their experiences and valuing what they went through.
Wilkey said it is past time for procedural justice training, and that the Spokane Police Department has two certified instructors that CSPS is collaborating with on the effort.
Although CSPS does not have any mental health professionals on staff, campus security officers go through trainings that teach them to recognize when someone is having a mental health crisis or dealing with substance abuse. They also do implicit bias and diversity trainings and are trained in both de-escalation and escalation techniques as well, Wilkey said.
In this instance, campus security officers were meeting the man where he was at and worked to de-escalate the situation, Wilkey said.
This is the first time anything like this has happened on campus, she said, and campus security is familiar with the man and his family and previously had never had a negative interaction or conflict with them.
Once campus security got the call about the man who broke into the classroom in college hall, they first made sure the students and professor in the class were safe before changing locations to dispatch the threat. Officers arrived at the scene within three minutes of being dispatched, she said.
A dispatcher with campus security also called a Spokane police department officer to the scene, who arrived at around the same time the CSPS officers did, Baldwin said.
“Not excusing [the man's behavior], not justifying how anybody felt, but saying procedurally, this is what happened, and that impacted people in a different way as well,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said he hopes this incident will spark a larger conversation about safety and that students think about ways they can help themselves and keep each other safe.
“That even that happened really kind of rattled, shook a lot of people up, so we want to take the time to create the space for people to have conversations around that,” Baldwin said.
Wilkey also said it is important that students download the Rave Guardian app, since it allows students to help each other by helping make sure their friends get home safe using the safety timer feature.
Going forward, the professor whose classroom was broken into said this incident can lead to a larger conversation about ensuring students feel safe on campus, with a focus on making sure students and faculty of color and other marginalized identities feel that they belong on campus and that they are protected.
“I think that [what happened] hit me personally, but it also hurt a lot of my students personally, because again it was like something happened that had to do with their identities, and I have students who are of marginalized identities in that class, and I think they were impacted in a way that was even more compounded than perhaps students who don’t share those identities,” the professor said.
She also said she is encouraged by action that students have taken and expressed an interest in having bias reports be a part of the information that is shared about what to do in emergency situations.
The professor also spoke to the importance of having safety patrol members and counselors of diverse identities, and increasing funding for CCP so that there can be people separate from security officers who are trained to respond appropriately to mental health crises.
In addition, the professor said that depicting the incident as a mental health issue reinforces placing the blame on mental health when an individual commits a crime. This demonizes and further stigmatizes mental health, she said.
However, portraying it as a mental health issue also erases the nuances involved in the situation including that she felt she was targeted because of her race and her gender.
She said she felt angry that her students had to have this incident happen to them, and that this incident is part of a larger issue.
“It’s not just about this incident, it’s about all of the incidents on campus,” the professor said. “I’ve only been here a couple of years, but I’ve seen them already, and then ones that we want to prevent in the future. We can’t just focus on the one.”