Students said that the campus lockdown on Sept. 23 improved on previous years’ emergency notification, but procedures were applied inconsistently throughout campus.
However, Mills College administrators are developing ways to improve the Emergency Notification System (EMS).
That evening, from 6:18 p.m. until around 8:30 p.m., the campus was on lockdown, which means that anyone on campus had to stay inside the nearest building and lock the doors.
The students who signed up for EMS received a message which stated that they should “shelter in place” and not to go near the back gate because of a police incident on Seminary Avenue.
According to the Oakland Police Department, police blockaded a house on Seminary Avenue. Police were waiting for a warrant so that they could enter the house and see if two murder suspects were inside.
At the time, Public Safety officers believed that there was a double homicide by Seminary Avenue. They acknowledged that the story could change as it developed.
Students reported that they received the e-mails, text messages and voicemails after 6:18 p.m. – some as late as 30 minutes later.
“It was weird. I was at Founders with my friends. One cell-phone would go off and then another would go off a couple of minutes later. And then another,” said senior Courtney Booker, a Residential Assistant for Ethel Moore.
Students received the message in average time span, according to Renee Jadushlever, vice president for Operations. “We have 72 trunks and 1,600 phone numbers, so the delivery of those messages takes about 20 minutes,” she said in an October 2007 article for The Campanil.
Mills sent out more than 3,000 messages this time around, Jadushlever said.
Booker said that many people at Founders did not take the warning seriously. “People were leaving and coming in all the time,” she said.
Some people were confused by the message wording, especially the specific reference to the back gate. “I thought that it meant that you should stay away from that side of campus. Not stay in altogether,” Booker said.
In an e-mail, Jadushlever said that messages, especially text messages, are limited in space. She only had 125 characters available to
convey the situation, so the messages could possibly be confusing.
The College will soon e-mail students with definitions of safety terms so that “the campus community has the same level of understanding about what terms mean,” Jadushlever said.
Mills did not solely rely on the Emergency Notification System. R.A.s locked down the Ethel Moore and Mary Morse residence halls because they are located near Seminary Avenue. By 6:30 p.m., many of the other residence halls also had R.A.s to prevent students from leaving.
Junior Aiden Thomas, the head R.A. for Ethel Moore, stood watch over the women staying in Ethel Moore and Mary Morse. She patrolled the halls and told students to stay in their rooms and lock their doors.
This is Thomas’ second year as an R.A., so this incident did not panic her. “After three lockdowns, it’s become routine,” she said in reference to the three separate incidents that occurred in the last two years with suspects on campus.
Jadushlever said that she was proud of how the R.A.s handled the situation.
While most buildings were on lockdown, Public Safety evacuated Mills Hall. Mills residents were asked to return to their rooms while everyone else was asked to leave campus. Students felt conflicted about this act.
Senior Jessica King was attending class in Mills Hall when Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez asked the class to leave. She went to the second floor, where she knew some students were working. None of them knew that Mills was on lockdown.
“It seems like nobody thought that anyone could have been up there until about 10 or 15
minutes later when an officer came up to make sure that everyone had evacuated the building,” she said.
King had car troubles, so she walked around campus and found that most other people were still having class or eating.
“I’m glad that Public Safety did treat the situation seriously,” King said. “But it seemed that no one else on campus had the same sense of urgency as the people who were forced to evacuate Mills Hall.”
“I was able to drive off campus at 7:45 p.m. with no problem and no talking to, despite the fact that the campus was apparently locked-down,” she added.
Several students in the Craft of Fiction class that was held in Mills Hall at the time did not want to leave at all.
“I understand the need to be cautious, and commend the administration on the cell phone alert system which notified us stay inside,” said one graduate student who did not want to be named. “But this particular incident was not campus related.”
Graduate student CJ Singh also wanted to continue class. He felt that the evacuation was not necessary. “I wasn’t convinced that going outside the building would be safer,” he said.
In the end, he decided to sit at the Tea Shop until administrators lifted the lockdown at
While Mills Hall was evacuated, classes in
the Vera Long and Stern buildings were held
Public Safety issued a statement to The Campanil that the lockdown and evacuation had occurred, but members were not available to answer questions about the incident.
The statement also said that emergency action guides can be found in all residence halls and academic buildings.
Some places were not evacuated or put on lockdown. According to Katie Mamlok, a
cashier at the Tea Shop, many non-students are not on the emergency notification list. As a result, most of the Tea Shop workers did not know about the lockdown.
“We were open the whole time. People kept coming in and out,” she said.
Mamlok said that the College learned from this incident. Bon Appétit managers have now collected worker names and numbers so that the food service employees can be reached in the case of an emergency.
Last year, Mills dealt with two police pursuits. In the fall, an armed man was caught on campus, but students were not notified via the Emergency Notification System. In the spring, a group of people were chased along the path by Founders, but students were notified. There is no evidence of a lockdown at that time.
Prior to 2007, Mills had no way to contact most students in a timely manner.