Be proactive, not reactive

A recent front-page article of the Experience, titled “LMC Preps for Worst” (October 9, 2015), described increased security measures – training videos, alertness, sheltering in place and the decision to flee – that our institution is taking in response to mass shooting incidences. Upon reading the article, I initiated a conversation with the students of my Human Biology class. Using fifteen minutes of a biology lecture for an open discussion about gun violence may not seem appropriate, but my group understands — They welcome it. After all, we are working together in a community college. My students and I have stressed the importance of that word since the first day of the semester. Let’s see how they reacted:

-“Since the fatal shooting at the community college in Oregon, there have been numerous mentions of security adaptations. However, not many people have thought about the proactive measures we should take. An individual was troubled mentally. It wasn’t because of gun laws or not understanding how to duck and cover. If the community had worked together and given an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on, this could have been prevented.” – Terra
-“I agree that we should take certain steps to prepare for horrible situations. But why don’t we do something to prevent it from happening in the first place? People go through dark times. Just some interest in someone’s life may keep them from going over the edge.” – Jeff
-“We should raise awareness about how to protect ourselves in case of a shooting, but I feel we should also raise awareness about depression, help for people with mental illness, and bullying. Healthy expression and feeling accepted in your community would save lives.” – Miachalah
-“I don’t understand. Why isn’t the lack of a community discussed? It is one of the main causes of school shootings.” – Vanessa
-“Too many problems are being solved by being reactive, rather than proactive. Being proactive can mean group work or forming a community within your class.” – Gerardo
-“I feel that community is a major contributor to individuals going on a shooting spree. We should all treat each other nicely and with respect if we want to avoid this. If someone is mad or depressed, ask them what’s wrong or get help for the individual.” – Rohan
-“Everyone has things that may be challenging for them, whether personal, work-related or educational. If we looked out for one another, checked in with each other and had professors that modeled this, it would alleviate some of the stresses. A little compassion and understanding will go a long way and truly cultivate our ‘community’ college.” – Kenya
-“Professors should encourage students to speak with their peers in class. Having a non-hostile environment where no one feels ostracized will decrease the chance of a shooting becoming reality.” – Leslie
-“Being aware of those around you and showing compassion for another person may be all it takes to make a person feel wanted. This might prevent a person from deciding to hurt his/herself or others around them.” – Fardin
-“As part of a community, we have a responsibility to be more than just a walk-by and a smile. We need to help one another before we come to ‘the point of no return.’” – Sonia
-“I think we should all come together as a community, showing one another that we care for each other. We need to reinforce that LMC is an environment where bullying is not tolerated. We can make LMC a safe place for everyone and those thoughts of shootings or harming innocent people will never be encountered.” – Natalie
-“If we help and band together as a community, we will be able to make sure no one ever feels so alone and desperate that they want to hurt others.” – Angelina
-“If you see a fellow student and notice something is wrong, check in with them. Ask someone how they are doing. A simple ‘hello’ can help someone or even a smile. Get to know the people around you.” – Sharice
-“The bigger plan should be prevention. Stopping tragedy before it happens. Finding out, caring about people and their situations.” – Denise
-“I feel that LMC should provide a better culture of community in the classroom. We are here to help and support one another so this life journey can get better. Let’s each one, teach one, and make sure no student is left behind, left without help, or misunderstood. We need to share our struggles so that others don’t feel like they are going through it alone.” – Shawna
-“A solution is to have a classroom where we welcome people and let them talk about their issues. Provide them with love. Sometimes we feel empty and just need someone to talk to.” – Thanh

My students are not suggesting that LMC should forget about preparation. The institution would be foolish to ignore these events. But how often in the article was community mentioned? Did the article consider proactive measures to build and strengthen our relationships considered? If they had been presented, then we would not have written this article.
We are not arguing to “choose one or the other,” which is a classic, false dichotomy seen in many disputes. Here is our point: in the wake of such an event, as the national dialog plays out in the media (including newspapers like The Experience), perhaps there should be more focus on community. Let’s talk about proactive measures to bring families, friends, workers, teachers and students together.