February 14 saw yet another devastating school shooting take place in the United States of America. This time, it was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that was the target of Nikolas Cruz, a former pupil of the school. It was at approximately 2.20pm that Cruz entered the school in Building 12’s east entrance with a rifle, and began firing at random towards students and staff who hid in fear from the estranged teenager.
Naturally, this tragedy has once again raised huge debates concerning gun legislation in the United States. Further investigations have shown that Cruz had obtained up to 20 firearms, a shocking figure, and it’s indisputable that the gun law debate must continue until necessary changes take place. However, this disastrous situation also raises another, less voiced, concern: How did Cruz gain access to the school so easily?
Being a former student, he would evidently have had knowledge of entrances, exits and perhaps even pin codes, but it is still eminently worrying that he could walk in, with a rifle, without question or trouble. These troubles hit much closer to home. We are fortunate in the United Kingdom that our gun laws are much stricter, and the likelihood of someone entering our institution with a rifle is much lower, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enter.
When you stop to think about it, getting into our university is incredibly easy. Only a select few buildings have any kind of security, and they’re usually the ones which house high-value equipment. You might need a code or a student card to enter The Informatics Forum or the Department of Neuroscience (home to some shockingly expensive projects) but it’s all too easy to walk into the big lecture theatres where masses of people gather. It raises the question of what our university cares more about protecting; its paraphernalia or its people. It is certainly an alarming thought, that anyone with intention could infiltrate somewhere such as Appleton Tower, which can seat up to 1500 people in its five lecture theatres alone.
The bitter truth is that the world is not a particularly safe place at the moment, and neither our honourable institution nor charming city is excused from this. Action must be taken, and it’s the job of our university to keep its staff and students safe. There is already a pin system set up for all students, and the library functions perfectly efficiently using a swipe-in-swipe-out system, why could this not be applied to more, if not all, buildings? Despite the practicalities and costs of applying this across campuses, it is the safety of the attendees of The University of Edinburgh that should be prioritised. We are no longer in a position where we can be apathetic about the security of our institutions.
I have known doors in Pleasance left wide open to the public, study rooms in Buccleuch just a turn of a handle away from anyone. It is no longer shocking news that there are people in the world who wish to cause harm. Just because we’re less likely to be faced with someone yielding a handgun does not mean we can be lax. Not all crimes require a firearm. From burglary to sexual assault through to terror threats, leaving doors open to the public is simply not wise.
When my real home is a hundred miles away, throughout the semester this university becomes my home, and I want it to be safe. I would never leave my doors unlocked at home or let strangers pass through them, so why do we allow this to happen at university? It’s about time we saw changes in the levels of security around our university, to make our institution a safer place for all.