(NewsNation) — The shooting that took the lives of three students and critically injured five on the campus of Michigan State University on Monday has shined a renewed spotlight on campus security.
The shooting has sparked a new conversation over public access versus student safety at America’s schools.
The fact that doors to the academic hall and the student union where the shootings took place were open to the public is alarming to many.
A national safety consultant who spoke to NewsNation says public access isn’t uncommon at colleges and universities across the country.
For MSU senior Jackie Matthews, the shooting was all too familiar.
Matthews survived both the Sandy Hook shooting more than a decade ago and the MSU shooting this week.
Now a TikTok video she posted is going viral.
“I am 21 years old and this is now the second mass shooting that I have lived through: Ten years and two months ago I survived the Sandy Hook shooting,” Matthews said. “Unfortunately, it has been 10 years now and we are still experiencing the same thing.”
As the nation continues to grapple with what happened at Michigan State, security, policing, and campus safety are now under scrutiny.
Jason Russell is a safety consultant and MSU graduate and says his daughter is now a student and was across the street when the shooting took place.
“For a crime to happen, you need three things: You need motive, you need means and you need opportunity,” Russell said.
Tomorrow, Russell is meeting with MSU administrators to potentially identify vulnerabilities on campus.
“We can’t get rid of the motive necessarily with access control for somebody to commit a crime. We certainly can’t control the means,” Russell said. “But we can control the opportunity to let them in places where they can commit one of these offenses.”
We know the 43-year-old shooting suspect Anthony Dwayne McRae, who has no known ties to the university, walked straight into an academic building and the student union freely, without restriction, before he opened fire.
Students on campus told NewsNation that academic halls and the student union are generally open to the public, adding that dorms have open access to the lobby and common areas.
Accessing dorm room halls, however, requires a key card.
At night, that changes, and a key card is needed to access the entire building.
“You see a picture of him walking through a door. Right? If that door had been closed and locked, do I think you would have been able to find a way in?” Russell asked. “Absolutely.”
Russell said this type of system is common at colleges and universities across the country and that many are now exploring additional security features such as credentialed-access-only for buildings at all times.
“It really just depends on what’s happening in that building, right, what it’s used for, and how often people need to be coming and going, and how free that access needs to be in order to not hamper operations,” Russell said.
While key cards and fobs are what many companies use to control access to certain areas or buildings, advancements in technology now allow phones to serve as a credential as well.
“Everybody has a phone,” said Gloria Lubben, executive vice president of SecurAlarm Systems. “You don’t have to worry about getting cards or fobs out to people. You can send an electronic invitation to download a mobile app and the entity who is trying to secure the facility can revoke that credential without having to get their hands on it as well.”
The same door access can be used to lock entry points during specific events like campus football games, and can allow authorized parties to react quickly in case of a threat.
“You could hit a hot button on your system that would automatically send a lock command to all of the doors that you are controlling,” Lubben said.
Russell said layering security is key, adding that emergency plans, monitored surveillance and communication between departments all play an important role.