Gas Leak 14th and R 1/29/19

A firetruck parks outside the Nebraska Union at the intersection of 14th and R streets on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The existence of a safe environment tends to go unnoticed until tragedy shatters that atmosphere. On colleges campuses, this has occurred too many times.

The University of Texas and Virginia Tech immediately come to mind as campuses where tranquility violently ended at the hands of disturbed individuals. Closer to home, an assailant killed four faculty members and a student before turning the gun on himself at the University of Iowa in 1991.

Only a year later, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had its own brush with potential catastrophe when a disgruntled student attempted to open fire on a crowded classroom.

In this edition of The DN, we took a look into that October day almost 30 years ago, and dove deeper to examine campus safety. Our reporters worked to illustrate how the university community is defended from a spectrum of safety threats, and uncover the gaps that exist in the university’s protections.

Campus safety encompasses more than protection from mass casualty incidents. Speeding cars on 16th street fail to acknowledge pedestrians. Misplaced NCards can result in individuals gaining access to dorms. Even burned-out street lights can pose a safety risk.

To examine UNL’s safety,  not only did we revisit the 1992 flashpoint, but we delved into how the university responded to this and nationwide events through the years. We profiled student opinions on the extent of UNL’s concealed weapons policy. We took a look into how ROTC on campus prepares for a potential mass shooting. Finally, we spoke with a former professor and UNLPD about if locks on classroom doors would be effective if disaster were to strike.

This issue of The DN serves to highlight both the strengths and deficiencies of those institutions which protect campus. It is our hope this edition serves to inform the university community not just how to protect themselves, but how they are already protected.

This piece was originally published in the April/May 2019 special edition of The DN.