By Kevin Lopez
College students have been rocked across the country as many are still reeling from the mass shooting that happened at Michigan State University that claimed the lives of three students and put five other students in critical condition.
Reactions across the nation have been swift from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, President Joe Biden, and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sending their condolences to the victims, while also calling for greater reform targeting gun control.
Here in Grand Rapids, the tragedy has caused some Grand Rapids Community College students to be nervous about their safety, while GRCC President Charles Lepper has encouraged students to continue to support each other.
“We must continue to look out for one another and care for each other on our campuses and in our communities,” Lepper said in a Feb. 14 statement.
The Collegiate talked to students about their thoughts, opinions and overall reaction to everything that has transpired over the past few days.
MayLynne Hath, 19, of Cedar Springs, said “I feel sad, very sad that this is happening to people and just that our country experiences it very often. I feel sad for the victims and the families involved. I wish everyone would stay safe, look out for one another, travel in groups, be aware of your surroundings, just do your best to stay safe.”
Skylar Pitt, 19, of Middleville, said “ I was just there on Sunday. I go almost every weekend. I have a friend, she was the first one to let me know. I immediately left work so that I could check on my boyfriend. Luckily, he was in a dorm that was like 25 min away so he was safe.”
When asked about how safe she felt coming into school today, Pitt said, “I was nervous to come to school today because I was just thinking, ‘what college could be next?’”
Miguel Lopez, 20, of Grand Rapids, felt the same way about coming into school today.
“I wonder what college nearby can be next?” Lopez said. “That’s such a bad world to live in. I shouldn’t have to walk into a building as a student thinking okay the nearest exit is four minutes this way, or if I take the stairs how long will it take,” Lopez said.
Holly Sullivan, 22, of Caledonia agreed with the safety concerns for students.
“I definitely say it’d make me more concerned for our safety- for everyone’s safety in the sake of us just being young, not prepared with things to defend ourselves.”
When asked about whether she feels safe at GRCC, Sullivan said, “In a group of people, yes. On my own, outside of the buildings? No. In the buildings? Yes. But I guess it happened in a building there, so maybe not.”
Yessica Rocha, 18, of Grand Rapids, felt that the shooting put everything into a new perspective.
“I was definitely shocked,” Rocha said.. “I feel like when we hear about school shootings there like most often in grade schools and high schools, so I feel like when it’s a college or university it’s kind of shocking. Like I felt like I beat high school, maybe I beat school shootings and stuff like that, but when it happens to you at a college or university it’s like that could still happen.”
The Collegiate also traveled to the Lakeshore campus in Holland to talk to the students there to see how they felt a day after the MSU shooting.
Issac VanderLaan, 19, of Hudsonville, said he felt horrible.
“I just feel really bad because I know this stuff happens a lot here (in the U.S),” VanderLaan said.
When asked about if he felt safe coming to the Lakeshore campus, VanderLaan said, “I’ve never worried about that,.I know people say you don’t imagine happening till it happens to you, but I’ve never been worried about it too much.”
Cali Tighe, 19, of Saugatuck, felt worried about the shooting happening on a college campus.
“I was shocked, I was upset, but also I was startled. I just left high school and I was in the mindset that I was leaving school shootings behind and to hear what happened at a college campus just made me go, oh crap.”
Alissa Dykstra, 24, of Holland, was worried about how easy it was for the perpetrator to commit his acts.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking and I don’t know how he had access to just walk in, so that’s problematic. It makes me sad and concerned for my safety.”
Richard Chan, 20, of Holland, could understand why students worried about their safety with the continued mass shooting incidents.
“I attended West Ottawa and in my sophomore year there was a report of someone having a gun,” Chan said, noting a past scare led him to worry about what could happen. “…there is a worry… that something might go down… so it’s hard to say because it can happen anywhere.”
GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman wants to reassure students that the campus police and administers are looking out for their safety
“The safety and security of our campus community is the number one priority of all the administrators and all of the employees of this school, and we understand that the safety of our students and our employees here is not just the responsibility of the police department,” Whitman said. “We have a licensed, sworn police agency here (on GRCC’s Main Campus)...We are trained in active shooter response, and we are equipped with the equipment to respond to an active shooter.”
The Collegiate will continue to follow this story. In the meantime, counseling services are available through GRCC here.
Collegiate reporters Blace Carpenter, Brandon Smith, Kenzie Davis, Anane Badom, and Annabelle Guysi contributed to this report.