Heidi Czerwiec, an associate professor of English at the University of North Dakota, had a bit of a meltdown when she saw two members of the campus ROTC walking across campus to a scheduled maneuver.
But don’t take my word for it. That’s per her letter to the Grand Forks Herald today:
Apparently, it’s not enough that UND’s administration is attacking the quality of education by cutting programs and experienced faculty and jacking class sizes. Now, we must also feel under physical attack as well.
I look up from my office computer to see two figures in camo with guns outside my window. My first thought is for my students’ and my safety: I grab my phone, crawl under my desk and call 911. The dispatcher keeps me on the line until someone can see if ROTC is doing maneuvers.
I can barely talk—first, with fear, and then with rage when the dispatcher reports back that yes, in fact, I’ve probably just seen ROTC cadets, though they’re going to send an officer to check because no one has cleared it with them. They thank me for reporting it.
It doesn’t end there. Czerweic then receives a call from the UND campus police, a conversation she describes as a scolding. According to her, she’s going to start calling 911 every time she sees ROTC members on campus:
A few minutes later, a university officer calls me back—not to reassure me, but to scold me for calling 911. He says ROTC has permission to do this exercise. When I tell him that this was news to 911 and that they encouraged me to call whenever I see a gun on campus, he seems surprised.
He also tells me that ROTC will be doing these exercises for the next couple weeks.
So I reply that I guess I’ll be calling 911 for the next couple weeks—and I will. Every time.
It’s not my job to decide whether people carrying guns at school are an actual threat. It’s my job to teach and to get home to my family.
She goes on to describe on-campus ROTC exercises as “highly inappropriate.”
“We’re already under financial and emotional attack,” she concludes. “We don’t need to feel under physical attack, too.”
I wonder if anyone else on campus feels the same way?
Given the spate of campus shootings in recent years it’s understandable that seeing people with guns on campus would be a little scary. From afar, and to the untrained eye, it is difficult to tell whether a gun is the real deal or a practice dummy.
Perhaps there is something UND can do to announce when and where the ROTC will be doing exercises to avoid this sort of reaction. Or if they’re already announcing the exercises, maybe they could do a better job of it.
But Czerweic’s hostility toward the ROTC seems unwarranted, as does her overall paranoid attitude.
UPDATE: UND spokesman Peter Johnson just sent this in response to a request for information about how ROTC exercises are noticed on campus:
We did send an email notifying all students, faculty and staff that ROTC would be holding exercises throughout the spring in the Quad (or Mall) portion of campus (ROTC holds these exercises in the fall and the spring). But we recognize that the notification wasn’t sufficient. The University will now send a campus notification before each exercise, and we will also notify the faculty member each time there will be exercises. We provide a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff, but in this instance we could have done a better job of helping students and employees know that this was a safe training exercise.
I’m not sure I buy that UND wasn’t doing a good enough job. They sent out an email. The ROTC has had a long-time presence on campus.
Still, it’s good to know they’re going to put in some extra effort to ensure that everyone is aware of what’s going on.