It's a situation that has played out across the country, but one that no one can imagine happening so close to home. Jeff Besong, assistant vice president of Public Safety and police chief at Point Park University, sought to create a video that would educate students, faculty and staff on what to do in such a situation, while also highlighting the protections in place on campus.
"When they see our own University, it will bring the scenario closer to home," Besong said. "They'll say, 'I sit in that classroom.' . I think everyone will get a sense of ownership. Our hope is that they will better understand what actions can be taken in case of an armed intruder."
Personalizing an On-Campus Active Shooter Situation
The video was conceived using the tenants of the ALICE Training Institute, a school safety company. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The institute uses the acronym to highlight ways to respond to an active shooter situation on campus.
Besong is aware of only a handful of training videos available to universities, and none of them deal with a situation on a Point Park-like urban campus. The final video will be presented in the City-University Life Class, and all current and future students will see the video.
To produce the video, Besong hoped to use homegrown talent, and asked the Cinema and Digital Arts Department for a recommendation. Chair and Associate Professor Jeremy Braverman recommended Garrett Kennell, Kevin Stiller and Timm Romine, all recent Point Park graduates. "I think it's a great opportunity. It's the type of stuff they'll be getting paid to do as filmmakers," Braverman said. "It's a springboard. They're so talented, they can make anything look good."
Besong provided a script and a video done by Auburn University as an example to follow, customize and improve upon. While Kennell had never made an instructional PSA video before, he found elements of familiarity in the project. "What was cool about this project is that it had somewhat of a narrative attached to it," said Kennell, who directed the project. Stiller does cinematography, while Romine acts as editor. "We were able to construct a very loose narrative to this PSA. It actually gets people interested and attached more when you can follow a clear and concise story."
Using Point Park Students and Faculty as Actors
Kennell said all actors in the video were students and faculty members. Braverman said the project provided a nice experience for students, but the use of alumni to produce it was just as important. "It allows (alumni) to feel even more connected to the University," he said. "It strengthens that relationship - it's very similar to 'The Chair.' It's the same concept, as both students and alumni worked on that. This provides them an entry into the industry and connects alumni to students."
Point Park University Officer Alyssa Bunn was among a group of officers in tactical formation as they simulated arriving on the scene of an incident in the school's Lawrence Hall for the video. She enjoyed working with former and current students on the project. "I was able to see what they learned or were learning, and how they applied it to the making of the ALICE video," she said.
Bunn also found it to be a good refresher course for what she's been taught. "It helped to re-enforce the training I've received for an active shooter or intruder attempting to harm others, and it allowed all of us to practice what actions we need to take in case a situation like this happens," she said.
Violent Videos Now a Necessary Tool for Ensuring Campus Safety
Officer James Pasqualino, who also appears in the video, said violent incidents nationwide have made videos like Point Park's a necessary tool for the safety of staff, faculty and students.
"The event of a mass shooting is certainly something we never want to face, but there always has to be a plan to eliminate the threat, should it come to our campus," he said. "With regular repetitive training methods being used by our department, we are preparing for such an event." Both Pasqualino and Bunn said the video acts as a reminder to staff, faculty and students that Point Park's officers are fully trained and prepared to deal with any situation that threatens their safety. Bunn concludes, "Their safety is our number-one priority."
is managing director of marketing and public relations for Point Park University. He joined the University in March after a nearly 20-year career as a professional journalist.