By KATHRYN De SHIELDS
A press conference was held in at 4 p.m. Sunday to address the multiple shooting that occurred that morning on Hampton University’s campus. Three men, including the shooter, a former student, were wounded at 1 a.m. at Harkness Hall, said Hampton Police.
President William R. Harvey spoke to the media in the football meeting room of Armstrong Stadium. The student body was invited to attend, but an overflow crowd could not accommodate the number of students who showed up. The overflow of students was directed into a different room in Armstrong Stadium where they would be briefed later.
Many students were upset that the HU administration didn’t hold the conference in a larger place where everyone would have room to attend.
“I knew it was going to happen,” said Kyle Winfield, a junior theatre major. “Logically, it would be better for this to be held in Convocation where there would be room for students to attend and ask questions.”
It was announced at 4:30 p.m. that Barbara Inman, vice president of student affairs, would address the students in the Student Center Theatre. Patricia Easley, a senior finance major, said
“I believe this (press conference) should have been held at a bigger venue. Students are scared, students are concerned, and students need to know what is going on.
“This school owes its students an honest explanation. There are too many conflicting stories and the explanation the school has given us is vague and generic. It isn’t comforting at all.”
Students were also concerned about the emergency notification system that was used to alert them about the shooting via text messages and e-mails.
Alexandria Willis, a senior communicative sciences and disorders major, said she was not notified at all about what was going on. “The Harbors [off-campus apartments] was full of police and nobody stopped me or my friend to tell us there was a shooting and not to go back to campus,” she said. “We walked right into it.”
As students crowded into the Student Center Theatre, every seat was taken. Chairs placed in the aisle ways were filled. Many people stood in any free space that was available. There was still not enough room for everyone.
While people waited for the Armstrong Stadium press conference to end, two students took the initiative and addressed the student body.
Easley and Jasmine Williams stood at the podium and asked the students to participate in a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. Soon afterward, the conference was moved to the Student Center atrium.
Donell Woodson, a freshman computer science major, said that he couldn’t go back to his room in Harkness Hall after coming back to campus from a party.
“I didn’t know where I was going to stay or what I was going to do for myself. I was standing outside for three hours before someone was able to come on campus and get me.”
Inman and Harvey entered the student center at 5 p.m. to address the crowd. Inman went over the events of what occurred during the shooting and what measures were taken then opened the floor to questions.
Many questions dealt with the emergency notification system.
Inman said that less than 20 percent of the campus was signed up despite the administration urging students and faculty to do so. The text message and e-mail system was installed in response to the Virginia Tech campus massacre of April 2007.
However, those who did sign up stated that they did not receive text messages Sunday.
“I did not receive a text message at all even though I was signed up for it,” said Easley. Some students said that they did receive the text message three hours after the shooting occurred.
“We need to make sure we have the facts before we send out information,” Inman said in response to a question about the delay of the notifications. “We don’t want to send out false information.”
Inman stressed throughout the forum that the university will be “revisiting security procedures” and that people who haven’t signed up for the emergency notification system need to do so immediately.
Students offered suggestions to HU faculty in attendance about how to improve security measures, and observations on the failings of the current measures in usage.
For example, broken ID-activated dormitory locks to the front doors, front gate police officers not taking down the proper information for drivers without decals, and rectifying evacuation and notification procedures were addressed.
Although Inman stressed that these measures were always in effect, many students disagreed that they were not.
“Listen to us,” said a male student to Inman. “You’re telling us that these things should be happening, but we’re telling you that they are not.”
Student suggestions were written down by attending administration officials.
Harvey stressed a need for unity on campus during the tragic time and that everything possible was being done to ensure student safety.
“It is not us against them,” said Harvey, “it is we in this together. We are a family.”
Another Hampton University forum is scheduled 5 p.m. Monday at Ogden Hall.
The writer is a junior at the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.