Professors' talk about their fears and rights

By: Sarah Goebel Email
By: Sarah Goebel Email

The Virginia Tech shootings have professors at Western Kentucky University wondering what to do in an emergency situation. If a student ever feels threatened they can drop a class, but what about teachers?

An online discussion board has been created for faculty where they can ask for advice on dealing with troubled students.

If this were to happen at WKU what would the professors be expected to do?

“There’s not a lot we can do about guns. We ban them on campus, but that doesn’t actually prevent somebody from bringing it,” Professor Ginny Pfhol said.

Professor Pfhol said she’s never felt threatened by a student, but because she teaches psychology and includes these topics in her class discussions, she believes she’s better prepared to handle emergency situations.

“We did talk about we could smash windows and get to the roof and they said will yeah stuck on a roof could we jump. We were kind of half joking - half serious, but our classrooms - there is no escape route per se,” Pfhol said.

Karl Laves from the Counseling and Testing Center said university employees have the same rights as everyone else and should do what they can to protect themselves.

“A faculty could dismiss class, ask students to leave - they could leave,” Laves said.

If it isn’t an immediate threat, Professors have the option of notifying the Dean of Students, Department Head, the Counseling Center or campus police.

“We encourage them to only do what they feel comfortable doing as far as making contact and talking with the students,” Laves said.

The Counseling Center is one resource where faculty can go for advice on how to handle troubled students and students can go for help.

Laves said the number of concerned professors asking for advice has increased since the Virginia Tech shootings.

“I think the university as a whole needs to do more preparedness,” Pfhol said.

If something like the Virginia Tech shootings did happen here, Pfhol said there is really only one thing she could do.

“I’m responsible for my students. I would do whatever possible to protect them,” Pfhol said.

For appointments and to schedule a consultation with WKU's Counseling and Testing Center, call 270-745-3159 or email them at counseling.services@wku.edu.

In a related story the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University are starting a mass notification system. Both text messaging systems will warn students and staff in an emergency.

U.T.’s one-year $24,000 contract with E2 Campus will enable the university to reach $35,000 participants. There will be no cost to participants and students and staff are not required to participate.

Western Kentucky University is looking into a similar system.

In Washington, a lawmaker wants Congress to call for universities to release students' mental health information to their parents if deemed at risk. This would help protect university students, faculty and staff from future incidents like that of the Virginia Tech shootings. To view the story from the Associated Press, click here.


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