‘This has become the norm’: Grambling students reflect on recent shootings
Plans for increased campus safety measures are being developed, administration says
At Grambling State University on Oct. 21, 2021, students are back to classes after multiple shootings in one week. (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)
GRAMBLING, La. — Days after the Grambling State University shootings, students are returning to classes, trying to resume normal life.
A small group of students from the Gemini Club, a club dedicated to student and community engagement, were picking up trash along one of the main campus streets Oct. 21, four days after the second shooting.
The first shooting happened around 1 a.m. Oct. 13 in front of the student union, killing one person and injuring three others, including two students. On Oct. 17, a second shooting in the quad area of the campus injured seven and killed one person during homecoming celebrations.
Adairre Wilson, club president and a pre-law senior, said the school normally organized trash cleanup after homecoming events, but with everything canceled after the shootings, the club decided to organize its own cleanup event.
“We have to focus on the positive and one of those ways we feel is just giving everyone a clean slate, making it look clean, is definitely a start,” Wilson said.
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Senior Chayel Flowers wants more gates put up around campus, though he doesn’t think it’s feasible to close off the campus entirely. He was in the area for the shooting, but is determined not to let the incident affect his education.
“Going through this isn’t really going to hinder my educational goals or pursuits to get where I’m trying to go, but I do feel like it has put me in a position to where I’m kind of stagnant throughout this week,” Flowers said. “Watching a lot of the stuff break out, it was very scary, but it’s sad that I’m kind of used to it, honestly.”
Flowers emphasized that outsiders were the issue–he believes that the university and campus community has done a good job of pulling together in the wake of the shootings.
“These were non Grambling students that caused everything that’s going on,” Flowers said. “So I just want people to understand that we have to do better with our security measures to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it’s not the Grambling students causing these issues.”
At the school newspaper, Jasmine Franklin, editor-in-chief, said she’s had to separate her feelings as a student from her feelings as a reporter.
“I’m feeling as okay as I can feel,” Franklin said. “It’s not a good story of course, but it’s something that has to be covered and I’m handling it the best way I can.”
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She was off campus Oct. 17, as a shooting earlier that day in the vicinity of the campus made her decide not to attend the homecoming events.
“This has become the norm,” Franklin said. “Especially for our homecomings, because we’ve had these shootings happen every year on campus, multiple shootings between 2017 until now. So I think the climate is a little tense, and I know some students are still traumatized from the events.”
Franklin said security needs to be tightened– she, like other students, doesn’t want Grambling’s reputation to be overshadowed by violence.
“It’s not always an outsider, even though oftentimes it is. We need to look at it from a different perspective versus just using the term outsider as an easy way out to say ‘This is not Grambling,’ which it’s not Grambling — but at the same time we still need to make sure that we are protecting our campus and doing what we can internally, so that outside people don’t think that’s okay to do that on campus.”
Tisha Arnold, director of communications for the university, said plans are in the works for increased security. Louisiana State Police officers are investigating the shootings.
“The conversation around campus security started with campus master planning that’s been underway for the last 10 months,” Arnold wrote in an email statement. “The safety component of the plan is being accelerated. We look to make an announcement concerning developments on it soon.”
Jakayla Riddle, a freshman, said she was very close to the first shooting, about seven feet away. When she heard gunshots, she started running, accidentally getting separated from her friend who went into the cafeteria for shelter. Riddle made her way across campus and spent the night in a friend’s residence hall.
“I was scared,” Riddle said. “I didn’t feel safe.”
She was in her dorm for the second shooting, and heard that cops were running with the students away from the gunfire.
“The second shooting, the cops were running. Like how are you here to protect us and you’re running? People’s bodies are laid out and you running to pick up a walkie talkie,” Riddle said. “How does that sound?”
“The killer is still on the loose. They didn’t catch any suspects. I kind of feel like I’m in a movie. This is a movie like a Halloween movie.”
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