Students discuss safety after Shippensburg shooting


Courtesy of Zoe Williard

The Anthony G. Ceddia building at Shippensburg University. A shooting recently occurred just outside of the university’s campus, prompting discussions regarding safety and student wellness.

By Samantha Martin, Carlisle High School

With the commonality of school-related shootings, and especially with one occurring close to home, many students are on edge regarding their safety.

Reactions to a recent shooting outside of Shippensburg University have brought the ideas of safety and wellness to the forefront of student consciousness, both among those attending the University and those planning to attend college next year.

The shooting, which occurred October 6, left one man dead and another critically wounded. A report from Fox 43 stated that the shooting was likely drug-related and that a stolen gun, marijuana, a digital scale, and a large sum of cash were all recovered at the scene of the crime.

According to WGAL News, Clayton Wilson, a Shippensburg University student, was arrested and charged with homicide on Oct 25; he is one of two persons of interest in this case.

Almost immediately after the shooting, news about what happened spread among students, as well as others related to the school.

“We all got text message alerts saying there was a shooting on High Street, and that’s right next to Richard Avenue which is directly outside of campus,” Zoe Williard, a freshman at Shippensburg University, said. “We have a campus wall online where mostly freshmen can communicate with each other and that immediately started blowing up. Some people were saying it was happening on campus, some people were saying we shouldn’t be worried, some people were demanding answers.”

Jessalyn Morrow, a CHS student who committed to Shippensburg University in September, heard about the shooting through the university.

“I got an email from them,” Morrow said. “Once they heard about the shooting, I got updates from them and they canceled classes for the rest of the day.”

The days following the shooting were filled with mixed emotions regarding the shooting.

“I’d say 50 percent of the campus was still really upset and scared, and 50 percent wanted to move on and did not feel like there was any danger,” Williard said. “Some kids created a petition saying we should [have had] all classes canceled for the rest of the week, and some parents came down to get their kids.”

While it is believed that the shooting was an isolated incident, Morrow said the shooting briefly made her reconsider attending in the fall.

“It made me second guess my decision, to be honest, because I don’t want to be in an unsafe environment,” Morrow said. “I told myself there are many shootings everywhere, and that everyone was taking care of it and doing the best they could. That eased the feelings.”

The attitudes of the students regarding the shooting is not particularly surprising: gun violence at and around schools has exploded over the past ten years, causing prospective and current students alike to become anxious regarding shootings. People have even developed PTSD-like symptoms after hearing about shootings, and security in college areas has become increasingly proactive regarding shootings- even reacting strongly to false alarms.

Knowing how heavy the anxiety regarding shootings can be, especially among students, measures were put into place to help the students navigate the incident in Shippensburg.  The university worked to assuage fears through meetings with the student body, where they answered questions about what happened and took suggestions from students to see what the institution could do better in future emergencies.

“Two of our awesome staff members, Ms. Javeeta Thompson and Ms. Rochelle Plummer, also had a little debriefing where they invited students to come to talk about how they were feeling, and how [Shippensburg University] staff, professors, and administration could have handled the situation better and what they did well,” Williard said. “I thought that was really considerate and awesome of them, to get opinions straight from the students.”

Williard said that she hopes anxiety caused by the shooting will subside throughout the coming weeks and that resources are available to students in need of them.

“I’d hope that everyone feels comfortable and safe by now,” said Williard. “We have really awesome counseling resources at Shippensburg University at the wellness center and through the Social Work department, which is available for all students and already covered by [their] tuition.”

In the wake of the shooting, students are making their own plans to stay safe. Morrow said that when she attends university in the fall, she plans to take measures to ensure her own safety on and off-campus.

“I’ll get to know where the police station is,” said Morrow. “I’ll walk with friends, and I’ll know phone numbers.”

This story was originally published on Periscope on October 26, 2019.