St. Catherine University resumes classes after campus shooting
ST. PAUL—St. Catherine University will look to improve its crisis communications and consider new safety measures amid criticism over its handling of a Tuesday night shooting on the St. Paul campus.
"I think there is much we can do better," President Becky Roloff told a packed crowd at noon Wednesday in Our Lady of Victory Chapel, on the campus of the private Catholic women's college in St. Paul.
A campus security officer told police that he was shot once in the shoulder after confronting an unknown man in the wooded southwest corner of campus around 9:25 p.m. Tuesday. The shooter has not been found, and police said a detailed suspect description was not available.
The security officer was treated and released from Regions Hospital.
Early Wednesday morning, after police said there was no ongoing threat to safety on campus, Roloff decided to hold classes and activities as usual. Some "will find comfort in a return to normalcy as soon as possible," she said in an email to the community.
Students, parents and others accused Roloff of being insensitive to those troubled by the incident.
"I think there's a lot of people who've had experiences with gun violence or traumatic experiences" who were triggered by the event, said Bre Daoust, a freshman from Ashland, Wis. "It was just hard to get out of bed."
Daoust said her Wednesday morning classes were about as well attended as usual because students didn't feel they could skip them without consequence.
During the noon event at the chapel, Roloff said she might have canceled classes had the victim been a student, not an employee. She urged the community to choose not to "live in fear."
It took about an hour Tuesday night for St. Kate's to alert the campus to the shooting. But because the school's text messaging system requires students to opt in, many found out much later and through sources other than the school.
Mark Johnson, the school's public safety director, said St. Kate's doesn't currently have the student phone information necessary to subscribe everyone to the text alert system, but he said he's "very confident that will occur."
Johnson said nearly 300 students signed up for text alerts during the four-hour campus lockdown, while police and school officials searched for the shooter.
Daost, the Wisconsin freshman, said she walked across campus from the gym to her dormitory during the lockdown and no one told her to seek shelter.
Students in dorms said they were instructed by police to gather in dorm hallways while school residential hall leaders thought they should be in their rooms.
At the chapel event, students and staff also complained about a lack of outdoor lighting on campus, which school officials said they were addressing. Roloff said they'll consider installing more security cameras, too.
Roloff said a task force would analyze the university's messaging in the hours after the shooting. She said the messages were confusing, too infrequent and lacking in detail.
"We need to learn from last night so we can move forward," she said.