Professors deliberately ignore shooting, endanger students

A surreal scene unfolded around noon on Tuesday. As a gunman shot an instructor at point-blank range in front of a classroom of students, some Purdue professors continued to teach class as if nothing was amiss, ignoring students’ pleas to lock the doors and turn off the lights.

“I’ll have the TA tackle him if he comes in,” joked Professor Rebecca Trax, according to Sami Menard, a student in her 12:00 Introduction to Accounting class.

Trax may very well have been describing the scene that unfolded in the Electrical Engineering building, where a TA was killed.

Trax’s class is held in the Class of 1950 lecture hall, one of the biggest lecture halls at Purdue. It is in these lecture halls that the greatest number of students were vulnerable.¬†Menard and many other students reported that Trax took no precautions whatsoever when the university-wide text messaging system alerted students and faculty to the danger. Lights were left on and doors were left unlocked while she continued to lecture.

Professor Trax was not the only faculty member who disregarded the danger. Student Claire Gordon said that Miyoung Hong, an instructor in the College of Liberal arts, insisted that there were no threats, and propped open a door after another instructor had closed it.

Students also reported that many other professors and instructors made no adjustments. The indifference was not unique to one department or building. Professors teaching in the Physics, University, and Armstrong buildings paid no heed to the warnings. Many students felt unsafe and wanted to leave, but felt they could not because of the shelter-in-place protocol.

Purdue’s ability to communicate accurate information to students about the tragedy was also inconsistent. Students were alerted about the shooting promptly, which allowed many students to seek shelter right away. However, less than an hour after the first shots were fired, Purdue’s automated alert system informed students to “resume normal operations.”

Police scanner reports indicated that officers were still looking for additional shooters at the time this message was sent.

On a day of tragedy and confusion, students displayed frustration with the perceived indifference of faculty and administration. Zach Vander Missen, who was in the classroom directly above the one where the shooting took place, expressed his concern. “I think Purdue needs to rethink how they train their faculty and instructors to respond to these situations.”

It remains to be seen if these events will change how Purdue teaches and enforces emergency protocols. Ron Wright, director of campus emergency preparedness and planning, did not respond to an email asking for comments.

Photo credit: Abhijitsathe

Editor’s note: We’ve removed any references to the conduct of Dr. Alon Kantor from this article after determining that some of the information we received may have been inaccurate. The Review would like to formally apologize to Dr. Kantor for this oversight, and commend him for taking appropriate action.

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49 Responses

  1. James

    Hearing that some professors ignored the warnings is insane and scary. The fact that they thought what ever they were teaching was more important that taking safety precautions is ridiculous and they need to face some consequence or reprimanding.
    However, Purdue as a University handled this perfectly. They sent the text out promptly and the second text was not sent while they were still looking for a second shooter. the “reports” of a second shooter were calls of random oblivious students walking the halls not knowing what was going on. Each building was searched and each perceived threat was checked out before the order to resume operations was given.

    1. Ginger

      I’m calling bull on your statement of sending out texts promptly; a half dozen of my friends didn’t get texts until about an hour too late and I never got one.

    2. Ron McMillian

      The second text was in fact sent while they were searching for another shooter. I was sitting in the living room listening to the police scanner state that there were officers searching the building when I received the second text message.

  2. M. C.

    My professor was one of those that ignored the shooting all together. Had we not gotten the emergency text, she wasn’t going to tell us there was anything wrong. And then she continued with her lecture. My classmates were terrified and waiting to hear from their friends in EE, but my professor couldn’t be bothered to stop her lecture.

  3. Ashley

    We had a guest lecturer so our professor wasn’t even there, and she literally said, “Is this really so much of a distraction that we can’t finish class?” She left the lights on and continued to speak through the microphone while giggling about the situation. Total, total moron. Also, I had Professor Trax, and she is a disgrace.

  4. In the class I was in, a message on the PA said something like ‘We’re locking the front doors, everybody should go to the lower level.’ It was the Hicks Underground Library though, and we were already kind of down a level, so my teacher just kept on teaching. Eventually somebody came in and asked everybody to go to the basement.

  5. Bryce

    Our classroom doors don’t lock so a girl asked if we could put a projector in front of the door, he said, “it won’t block the doors any way they could still get it so whats the point.” He then told us to stop being a typical American and being hysterical, that this was just like Y2K and nothing was happening. He lectured for up to 35 mins after we first got the emails. We never turned off the lights and he let people leave to go to the restroom and was cracking jokes.

  6. anon

    Has anyone thought that maybe Professors were joking around and continuing to teach because they had terrified students who needed to be calmed down, or that they were scared themselves, and that they felt the best way to calm everyone down was to continue as normal? This was a horrible, terrifying situation, but faculty were not given information about what to do in a timely manner, if at all, so they made the best decisions they could.

    1. your disgrace

      which prof are you man? glad that you calmed your students you are damn smart by calming but not protecting your students. such behaviour shows humiliation of moral ethical values. good for you.

    2. C.C.

      I agree. Good for the professors. Why should they stop teaching under lock down, unless they were told to leave? If a person has a gun with malicious intent, a locked door will do nothing. Having students disperse outside is equally dangerous. I must admit that Purdue did a fine job of keeping everyone safe and informed.

    3. Anon

      I’m sorry, but cracking jokes while refusing to lock doors, take cover would NOT have calmed students! And calling students paranoid and “typical Americans” was counter-productive as well…. those faculty need let go!

  7. I can say, with entirely too much confidence, that my lecture of 20 and 21-year olds was infinitely more prepared for today’s events than my professor was.
    When news of the first shooting in the Electrical Engineering Building–only three buildings away–first came through, we quickly expressed to the professor our deep concern for our safety. When news of the next shooting in the Physics Building–this time, the building next door–came about, students pleaded with him to stop lecturing and lock the doors.
    It became apparent that ceasing lecture was warranted only when he heard shots outside of our classroom in Armstrong Hall, along with the shouts of policemen. Never in my life have I felt so unsafe at Purdue: every rattle of the doorknob or echo of footsteps prepared us that we may be next.
    During the course of today’s incidents, my only source of comfort was knowing that my fellow classmates and I had been well-prepared in grade school for lockdown situations such as this. We knew what to do and how to act when our mentor failed to take interest in either the situation or our well-being. While I have the upmost trust in Purdue’s fire and police departments, I fear for the preparedness of our faculty and administration. But, because we’re all adults, I’m not sure whether to call it sell-reliance and maturity on our part or negligence on theirs.
    However, what I do know is this: In an educational atmosphere where it’s much easier and more realistic to carry a firearm in comparison to younger student bodies, the absence of an emergency preparedness plan is nothing short of reckless and irresponsible. I sincerely hope that certain members of this faculty begin respecting that, while they have every right to risk their own well-being, I reserve the right to preserve mine. And in my opinion, my mother’s and father’s opinions, my grandmother’s, and my little brother’s opinions, an hour of class is not worth risking a room full of lives.

    1. Skittles

      Grow up Megan, you’re not a kid anymore. Think for yourself and stop looking to others to protect you. Unbelievable.

      1. Anon

        Hard to protect yourself, when they don’t activate any plan of action because there is none, and your professor thinks it’s a HUGE joke!

      2. Rhonda

        It’s hard to protect yourself when the authorative person in CHARGE of the classroom is not allowing it by refusing to lock doors, turn off lights, take it seriously PERIOD. FAculty that acted as such should be fired minimally. Their authority has gone to their heads. Unbelievable.

  8. HMP

    As a faculty member in the HK department, I highly encourage those who feel their professors mishandled the lockdown to write a formal complaint to the professor’s department head. Contact information for the department heads are readily available through the Purdue website. You may want to write this complaint with several other students in your classroom as well. Graduate and teaching assistants issues should be contacted to the course professor 9in charge. A matter like this should never be taken lightly and needs to be voiced.

    1. your disgrace

      write a complaint to the department heads and to the dean and to the president. if students dont raise voice, no one will care. speak loud out! i personally thank all industrial engineering department. and smile at crox etc kinda professors

  9. Skittles

    Well, time to grow up, morons. You’re not children anymore and it’s not the professors’ jobs to protect you. I’m sure most of the whiners in this case are against concealed carry on campus. Grow up.

    1. GottimHimmel

      Carry, both open and concealed, is legal at all State-owned colleges and universities. However, it is against University policy to carry while on campus and they can then cite you as violating policy. Which is why it is imperative that HB 1018 passes the General Assembly; so that fully-grown adults may defend themselves without fear of repercussion by those too cowardly – or too incompetent – to provide adequate defense of those entrusted to their care and policies. Defend yourself – no professor, friend, colleague, or co-worker has greater stake in your own personal safety than YOU.

  10. Marta

    Out of curiosity, what prevented anyone of the ADULT students from getting up and locking doors themselves? I mean no disrespect, and this is not intended to criticize choices, but it desperately highlights the insanity of relying on others for your own safety when you are still in control of your own faculties and the authority to use them.

    1. Colleen

      Just a thought, but maybe the doors can only be locked with keys? Not sure how the locks work there since it has been many years since I attended Purdue, but as a Kindergarten teacher now, my classroom door can only be locked with a key. In that instance, it would be the professor’s job to lock the doors then.

      1. Marta

        That’s your answer? You completely missed the point of my question if you think that’s an answer. Whether or not the doors can be locked by a student is largely irrelevant. But you seem content to let the sheep be led by someone else, to let them subordinate their authority, their very lives, willingly, to some professorial goon who probably couldn’t succeed outside of the protective walls of academia.

        1. Anon

          She responded to your statement quite appropriately! It’s hard to LOCK a door if it requires a key that ONLY the teacher carries! You seem to have all the answers, were YOU there?

  11. Nikki

    I was in Rebecca Trax’s class when the incident happened today. Her complete disregard for everyone’s safety and the seriousness of the situation baffled me. People were pleading and yelling out in the lecture hall to “please try and secure the doors”, however, she just made a joke out of the incident saying how “there are plenty of students in the class, someone will tackle the shooter if he comes in”. She continuously told the class that we need to be engaged and participate in class while the shooting/lockdown was happening, which was completely unprofessional in the situation. I felt completely unsafe in the class and if someone wanted to do some serious damage they could have easily come into the class of 1950 due to Professor Trax’s lack of concern about her students. She was more concerned with teaching accounting and not getting off schedule than the students safety in class.

  12. Rebekah

    I was in Dr. Kantor’s class and he DID lock the doors right away and even turned off the lights at one point….the comment (referred to by this student) I felt was more to encourage students to remain calm rather than to disregard the alert. He allowed all of us to text and call people during this horrible time, as well as have the police scanner on. I firmly believe his actions were not accurately represented in this article!

    1. your disgrace

      hahahhah profs are here guys lol anyways lol not gonna argue with no brainers here lol so the solution to campus shooting is to grow up and defend yourselves lol vegetable heads lol then no one needs cops as well lol MoORon ! defend yourself from terrorists you gun-lover lol

      1. your disgrace

        no one needs protection. we all are grown ups. we should carry guns and defend ourselves!!! yayyy!!! this is not a university after all!!! its a real version of counter strike battlefield etc!!! yayy!!! i would happily smash heads of gunlovers and grownuppers with my 17′ arms lol seriously lol

      2. Kyle

        If you honestly think more guns and/or a concealed carry law is the remedy to a situation like this, then you’re a punch-drunk, ignorant caveman who can either join the rest of us adults in reality, or get on with building your lean-to in the woods where you can shoot guns and whittle and eat raw animals all you want. Get real.

    2. Leah

      I was also in Dr. Kantor’s class today, and I agree that the way this article represents him is totally false. He locked both of the doors that he was able to, and the door that he couldn’t lock opened out, so putting a projector in front of it would not have done anything. He also stopped his lecture, called the police and asked what was happening, and even let us have the police scanner on.

    3. Michael Young

      Ah! Then I would have been misinformed. I have Mr. Shaffer on record. I would need your first and last name to put you on record as well. Otherwise I can’t make the correction.

  13. anon

    my professor thought it was a prank…kept lecturing and at one point said “good, now you guys will have to listen.” then when it was announced all clear and everyone was obviously shaken up and still had really no idea what had happened and one of my profs felt it was necessary to send out an email saying still having class at 3..expect to see you there. Very upsetting

  14. Another Purdue Parent

    My son also received an email from his professor to report to class less than one hour after the shooting. I thought Purdue was supposed to have some of the best professors. It sounds like they’re insane to me.

  15. Danny

    The bit about Dr. Kantor is not the case. He did not make a remark refering to the class as ‘typical Americans’ or ‘hysterical’. After finding out the information he consolidated his TAs, found out what was going on, then successfully locked two of the three doors without maintenance’s assistance. He then turned off the lights and we continued to wait for further information.

    Bryce Shaffer was sitting in the second to last row of the lecture hall, and if you have a class with Dr. Kantor you know he’s soft spoken, so I’m sure Shaffer was unable to hear the mumblings of our professor.

    1. Michael Young

      I have Bryce Shaffer on record saying that this is what happened. I’m certainly willing to make a correction if I can get you on record as well. I’ll need a first and last name to confirm.

  16. Clifford King Harbin

    Maybe the President of Purdue should have lunch with the President of Virginia Tech to learn what happened to the University after the shootings there. A shooting on campus is not an insignificant event.

  17. Elisabeth

    Of course the “adult” students COULD have barricaded the doors themselves if they were in one of these classrooms.

    That is NOT the point, my friends.

    The professors at this university have signed numerous policies saying that they will comply with each one as necessary. They have been entrusted with keys to buildings and classrooms and thus the responsibilities that comes with them.

    I am willing to bet money that by completely disregarding a message that tells them to “shelter in place” (i.e. lock the doors and windows, remain out of sight, etc) that they were violating one or more school policies and should see consequences for that.