Op-Ed: CSG campaigns ignore guns and student safety

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 5:03pm

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On Feb. 14, 17 children and educators’ lives were taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Since then, students, educators and millions of others have called for policy changes to curtail the epidemic of mass shootings in America. However, here in Ann Arbor, Central Student Government campaigns stayed silent.

It is the sad reality in America that as students, we are an at-risk population for mass shootings. Yet, spending much of my time holed up in classrooms and focusing most of my energy on my studies, the threat of an active shooter is not normally at the forefront of my attention. When I find myself thinking through what I would do if there were a shooter on campus, I find myself utterly ill-equipped. The Parkland massacre and the more than 200 other school shootings in America since Columbine in 1999 demonstrate the threat of an active shooter on the University of Michigan’s campus is more of a concern than I thought previously. Still not sold? Ask Central Michigan University students how they felt on Friday, March 2.

Each CSG election cycle, students complain about the governing body’s inability to impact important issues, like minority enrollment, and its fixation on seemingly less important issues, like Wi-Fi on the Diag. This year, the campaigns for CSG can address an issue of national and local importance: school shootings.

Yet, since the Parkland shooting, the MVision, momentUM, True Blue, eMpower and aMplify campaigns have not even acknowledged the tragedy Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, let alone proposed any ideas for gun violence prevention. The current leadership has done marginally better, sharing the March for Our Lives Ann Arbor event happening later this month, but without mention of any steps to ensure a tragedy like Parkland does not happen on this campus.  

Why the deafening silence on the issue? Is the University of Michigan, one of the most prominent public universities in the nation, immune to school shootings? Of course it isn’t. The threat to the lives of students is very real. It is the duty of our future campus leaders to protect our hoMe from gun violence.

In Florida and across the country, students have risen up. They organized school walkouts, protests and the March for Our Lives. These efforts joined movements like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Center for American Progress, Dick’s Sporting Goods and many other non-profits, government officials and businesses in demanding policy change. CSG campaigns must join these brave students and organizations to take a stand for the safety of the University’s students.

CSG campaigns can start by talking about the issue. Incorporate student safety and gun violence prevention measures into campaign platforms and messages. Demonstrate we, as at-risk students, are taking a stand against gun violence. Explore preemptive measures. Arm educators and students, not with guns, but with the knowledge of what to do in the event of a shooting. Then, require professors share this information with their students at the beginning of the semester, as they do with campus mental health resources.  Explore advanced infrastructure, such as safety-communication apps or bulletproof doors, which can prevent or mitigate the effects of mass shootings. Take a stand, as representatives of the student body, and lobby University and government officials at all levels in favor of policies ensuring the safety of University students.  

Campaigns should also take a stance on policies that do not work. Arming professors increases the risk of accidents in the classroom by allowing potentially dangerous and untrained individuals to carry weapons in the very classrooms we seek to protect. Arming educators also perpetuates the unrealistic idea of a teacher saving the day, demonstrated by the armed sheriff deputies hiding during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Armed faculty creates more problems than solutions.

If this year’s CSG campaigns truly seek to improve the livelihood of students, let us start by ensuring no one is lost to gun violence here on campus. To all those pursuing a position within CSG, the time to talk about this issue is now. Take a stand, speak out and pursue changes that will protect the student body and save lives. Take this opportunity to give light to and impact an issue of local and national importance. I would say campaigns can keep their thoughts and prayers, but it seems like those aren’t on the table either.

Charles Callis is a Senior in the Ford School of Public Policy