A Threat At Home

Terrorist attacks on American cities in the month of September are making waves felt here in East Lansing and the Michigan State University community.

Caleb Clarke, a junior criminal justice major, said that attacks like the one that occurred in St. Cloud, Minnesota – where nine people were stabbed in a shopping mall – have changed his perspective. An attack on MSU’s campus no longer seems impossible.

“When you’re talking about 9/11, you’re talking about the most populated city in the whole U.S., but then, you know, fast-forward 15 years later, you’re talking about really small-scale communities and cities. It can happen anywhere, that’s the vibe I’m getting,” Clarke said.

Phil Schertzing, PhD, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State and an expert in homeland security, said an attack on campus, while not likely, is a real concern.

“You bring in, you know, tens of thousands of people on campus for special events, which creates a tempting target for terrorists, and a vulnerability, and therefore you have to do planning and preparedness for that as well,” Schertzing said.

Clarke, who works with Green Coat Security at MSU football games, said that despite the threat, he feels safe on campus and at events. Guards at Green Coat are CPR certified and schooled in First Aid. They are trained to respond to emergencies and conduct evacuations in response to weather, bomb, and blood-borne pathogen threats. Clarke feels they are prepared to handle a crisis.

He also believes that the MSUPD are taking the right measures to protect students and staff.

“All in all, I feel like this university cares about their students,” Clarke said. “I can just see that, you know, the MSUPD cares, and they’re willing to take whatever measures necessary to ensure our safety.”

Collin Haggerty, marketing sophomore, agrees. This is his first year serving as a Residential Assistant in the dorms, the training for which, he believes, prepared him well for “almost any situation you can imagine.”

“You ask my opinion, I feel 100 percent safe on campus,” Haggerty said.

He said that the presence of emergency telephone stations throughout campus bolsters his confidence in campus police. Should an active shooter situation arise on campus, Haggerty feels that the MSUPD is ready.

The changing nature of terrorist tactics may make places like campus harder to defend, according to Schertzing. He pointed to the attack that occurred in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and the string of bombs discovered in New York City and New Jersey.

“These are not complex, coordinated attacks orchestrated by some terrorist organization, domestic or foreign. These are, in some cases, what they call home-grown violent extremists,” Schertzing said. “These are American residents or citizens…who have become radicalized in some way, probably over the Internet.”

Dr. Schertzing was direct when speaking about the level of seriousness this matter deserves.

“I suspect a lot of those people that were killed in those other attacks might have laughed it off ahead of time, they wouldn’t laugh anymore, if they were able. You laugh until it happens to you,” Schertzing said.