A Letter to Employees from President Markwood About Yesterday's Incident

Dear CSU colleagues,

I want to address the events of yesterday after it was reported that someone had a gun inside Clearview Hall. After a diligent response by our University Police, with assistance from other local law enforcement, we were able to assure residents there was no apparent threat in the building or anywhere on campus.I want to thank University Police, Residence Life, Student Affairs and other offices on campus for their response and for how well they worked together.

While we were fortunate with how this situation turned out, we have heard from several people that there are lingering concerns or questions about what happened and/or our response. Hopefully this information will help.

The initial report came in just before noon on Wednesday, when a Clearview Hall resident reported seeing a man with a gun in the hallway of the residence hall. University Police responded to the report and felt it necessary to make sure the building was thoroughly checked. University Police then sent a campus-wide “CougarAlert” notification asking residents to remain in their rooms while police conducted a systematic check of the building.

You can find out more about CougarAlert, and learn how to update your contact information at columbusstate.edu/cougaralert. While Columbus State has comprehensive communication channels in place, we did learn yesterday that our alert system did not work effectively. CougarAlert is designed to send emails and telephone calls to all students and employees whose information is in the system. I have tasked Vice President Abraham George with addressing this situation immediately.

While police were going door-to-door to search Clearview Hall’s 268 bedrooms, our situation was further complicated by some erroneous and irresponsible media reports. Unfortunately, those reports said there was an “active shooter” on our campus. We were extremely dismayed by this reporting and began working immediately to correct the misinformation and to assure everyone that there was never any report of shots being fired on our campus or anyone being injured. (We have had several conversations and a meeting with the media outlet involved.)

As is our practice, our Facebook and Twitter accounts (@ColumbusState) were being updated as frequently as possible. Please understand that in these situations, sometimes there is no information to update until the police have finished their work.

While University Police were in Clearview Hall, there were questions from other parts of campus about how they should respond. No other campus operations should have been impacted during the building search at Clearview Hall. If law enforcement officials thought there was any kind of threat to any other parts of campus, the CougarAlert message would have included instructions for others on campus. However, we understand how there were competing communications about what was happening yesterday, which led to personal decisions being made with safety in mind.

Within approximately two hours of the initial report, University Police were unable to identify any threats or suspicious individuals, and issued an “all-clear.” A follow-up CougarAlert was distributed, and all CSU social media accounts were updated.

Students were then again allowed to freely leave and re-enter Clearview Hall. Residence Life staff and University Police remained visible throughout the rest of the day and evening to address any lingering questions or concerns from students or parents. Vice President Gina Sheeks has been in contact with Clearview Hall residents and parents. Police are still investigating the original report.

We regret that this incident occurred and understand the anxiety and emotions that it caused, but please be assured that nothing is more important on our campus than the safety of our students and employees. Whenever there is a report of a gun on campus, we will react swiftly, carefully and seriously. If there are steps we can take to make you feel more secure, please let me know.

Dr. Chris Markwood, president