CSUN administrators say reporting unusual behavior in students may prevent campus violence
Over winter break a gun and explosive materials were found inside a student’s dorm on campus.
After making threats to students and staff, David Everson, 22, deaf studies major, was placed in a mental health facility and then taken into police custody.
According to CSUN Chief of Police, Anne Glavin, residence staff became aware of a possible problem when Everson’s parents called with concerns for their son’s welfare.
Violent crimes have occurred on campuses across the country, but according to the article “Violence in College: How Safe is Your Campus” on stateuniversity.com, the difference between the schools where shootings have taken place and where they have been prevented is that students reported the danger and the adults took action.
Administration has advised students to be on the lookout for warning signs and indicators that their friends and classmates may be a threat to themselves or others.
Mark Stevens, director of University Counseling Services, said to watch out for two main things.
“Pay attention to your gut and see if there are patterns of decline,” Stevens said. “The best indicator is someone trusting their gut when they hear or see something.”
When a friend’s behavior changes suddenly, it is the friend’s responsibility to notice the changes and talk to someone about them, Stevens said.
Over the years, campuses across the country have experienced the repercussions of unusual behavior that goes unreported and results in tragedy.
The Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was the second most violent crime occurring on a school campus.
Two students shot and killed 12 of their classmates, a teacher, and then proceeded to kill themselves.
The most violent campus crime in the United States was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, where 33 people were killed by English major Seung-Hui Cho.
The CSUN campus has also seen its share of violence.
In 1987, graduate student Fawwaz Abdin, 25, shot computer science professor Djamshid “Amir” Asgari on a stairwell landing in the engineering building. Abdin then shot himself in the head, and died instantly.
Abdin reportedly shot Asgari because he had given him a grade that put him on probation and could have gotten him kicked out of school.
Glavin said that a violent crime like a shooting could happen anywhere in America.
“You can’t ever say unequivocally, no one is ever going to bring a gun on campus, how can we guarantee that?” Glavin said. “The key to the whole thing (is) who do you live around? Do you know these folks? Are there things happening that cause concern to you?
“If they’re in a group that you socialize with and you go to lunch every day or walk to classes together, now all of a sudden that individual isn’t going to class or is constantly making excuses for not going to lunch or socializing,” Glavin said. “I’d certainly be concerned with my friend if that were the case.”
In the case of Everson, a dorm resident spoke out on witnessing unusual behavior in the former student.
John Garcia, business law major, said he thought Everson was a little weird.
“I could kind of see it happening,” said Garcia, 21.
Kayla Fajardo, 18, mechanical engineering major, lives in the dorms close to where Everson lived but did not know him.
“I almost didn’t want to come back,” Fajardo said. “I was scared when I first heard what happened, but to me there’s no point in being scared because stuff happens. I take it all with a grain of salt.”
Glavin said the signs should be taken seriously when they are seen.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly grab a gun and go do harm to someone but what it might mean is that they’re depressed for a reason,” Glavin added.
She said to look out for even the most minute signs of unusual behavior as it all starts with little things.
“In some cases, certainly in the case of David Everson, he got guidance to go to counseling and that was a very crucial thing that he got in and into counseling,” Glavin said. “The Everson case is an example of exactly how things go right. We all ought to remember that and know that there are many resources to help students.”
Campus resources for responding to mental health emergencies are the University Counseling Services, campus police and Klotz Student Health Center, Stevens said.
He said when someone calls the University Counseling Services, they would not reveal the identity of the caller if they wanted to remain anonymous.
However, if someone reported a person to the campus police, Glavin said she hopes they would give their name in case they had any follow up questions about the person.
“Don’t be afraid to (report someone), don’t be embarrassed,” Glavin said. “You might be helping somebody that’s in trouble and they don’t even know it. They need support, they need help, they need somebody to talk to who can help them with whatever they’re trying to deal with and I think that’s the credible thing.”