“It was like Fallujah, Iraq, when I served there.”
Those were the first words a Sinclair Community College police officer who responded to the shootings Saturday night in Dayton, Ohio, told Sinclair President Steven Johnson.
The shootings in Dayton were one of two mass shootings in the U.S. Saturday that left 29 people dead. Earlier in the day, a gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Both alleged shooters appear to have attended community colleges. Sinclair and Collin College (Texas) are working to provide law enforcement with more information on that.
There to help
Saturday’s violence didn’t occur at a community college, but its effect has rippled across local two-year college campuses. El Paso Community College (EPCC) took the precaution of closing its five campuses and its administrative services center on Saturday for the day.
Both Sinclair and EPCC colleges were setting plans to help students, staff and faculty who could have been directly affected by the shootings. Other colleges in Ohio, such as Clark State Community College, were also preparing to help their communities. EPCC said its counseling team would be available starting Monday, and it would provide resources on its website.
“As details emerge, know that EPCC is monitoring this situation carefully so we can better assist each of you and lead our community in healing,” EPCC President William Serrata said in a post on the college’s website.
As news of the tragedy spread, community colleges were quick to support their colleagues and their communities.
“In a few weeks, thousands of students will arrive on our campuses in the hope of making their lives — and the world — a better place. And we must lead by example,” wrote Maureen Murphy, president of the College of Southern Maryland. “Let’s not just teach our students the knowledge and skills they need for their degrees and certificates, but let’s teach them how to understand differing perspectives, how to solve problems through accepting others and reaching compromises, and to be strong of heart and of mind.”
A broader look
Mass violence in the U.S. has occurred at myriad locations — places of worship, government buildings, schools and entertainment venues, among others. In 2015, one such mass shooting occurred at Umpqua Community College (Oregon).
Even though these acts of violence are rare on two-year college campuses, they still affect community colleges when such shootings happen in their communities, and there are often community college students or graduates among the victims. Community college students comprise about 45 percent of all U.S. undergraduate students in higher education, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.