In October, Grambling State University got attention for many of the wrong reasons.
The North Louisiana campus was the site of two shootings that happened days apart from each other during the week of homecoming, traditionally one of the highlights of the school’s year.
While two incidents of gun violence in one week is concerning, shootings have been a regular occurrence at Grambling. The school has averaged two shootings per year over the last five years, according to a review of news reports.
Since the beginning of 2017, at least four people have been killed and 15 wounded during eight shootings on Grambling’s campus. One of the people killed by gunfire was a student. The three other shooting victims weren’t associated with the campus. Five of the 15 people wounded were students — and one Grambling police officer was also injured.
The federal government requires colleges to release annual crime reports, but there is no standardized way to report shootings on campuses. A shooting could be labeled as manslaughter, assault or put in another category. It’s up to the school’s administration to decide how it is reported.
There have been other shootings on public university campuses in Louisiana this fall. Southern University and McNeese State University both had shootings in the last two months.
At Southern, two people who were not students or staff on campus were shot in the university’s residential area in October, WAFB-TV reported. At McNeese, three university football players among several others were arrested after a September shooting near a campus apartment complex that injured one person, according to local news reports.
But no other public university in Louisiana appears to be struggling with gunfire at nearly the same rate as Grambling.
With no uniform source for campus gun violence reporting, The Illuminator reached out to spokespeople at Louisiana’s public higher education institutions to get information about on-campus shootings. We also relied on local media reports about the events.
Southeastern University has had two on-campus shootings in the past five years, one near the athletic field and park area on the northern side of campus, and one near the University Center.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has had one incident of gunfire on campus in five years. Louisiana Tech has not had any shootings in the past five years, nor has the University of New Orleans or the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Nicholls State University hasn’t had any in that time frame either.
LSU, which has around 30,000 more students than Grambling, has had two shootings on the main campus in that time period.
State education officials want to address the shootings by spending more money on campus alarms, security, lighting, and additional fencing. They are also looking to hire more campus police staff and increase campus police training.
The Board of Regents will request funding for these items in the higher education budget sent to the Louisiana Legislature next session, said Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed at a legislative hearing earlier this month.
But Reed also estimated that over half of campus gun violence incidents statewide were initiated by people who aren’t students or staff. This seems to be true at Grambling, where news reports have often described the shooters as “outsiders” to the school’s community.
Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, is seeking public input on campus gun violence. The senator is arranging a meeting with student leaders about campus safety. Jackson is organizing the meeting after hearing of several on-campus shootings, citing those at Jackson State University, Southern and Grambling.
“When you wake up to something like that, you realize that number one, it’s not contained to one university. Number two, it’s not even contained to the state, that it’s a problem we’re seeing recurring on college campuses around the nation and that it has hit Louisiana and that we must address it,” Jackson said.
Grambling’s location poses more security problems than other higher education institutions. With the campus situated on the main road of the city of Grambling, entryways into campus can’t be closed off, Jackson said. People who aren’t students can easily access the university.
“Grambling is going to have to take a unique approach and will require more manpower than other universities because of how the campus sits on that main street,” Jackson said.
Grambling President Rick Gallot has not returned phone calls and text messages from a reporter to talk about the university’s shootings for this story.
Grambling’s first shooting this year happened around 1 a.m. Oct. 13 in front of the student union, killing one person and injuring three others, including two students. The second shooting happened on Oct. 17 in the quad area of the campus, injuring seven and killing one person during homecoming celebrations.
Grambling put a curfew in place from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and canceled all campus events in response to the shootings. Grambling spokesperson Tisha Arnold said the university is planning increased safety measures–with an emphasis on preventing people who aren’t students or staff from accessing campus.
The administration is discussing when they will end curfew, but there’s no time frame in place yet. To that end, only students are allowed to access student housing at night, and campus checkpoints have been implemented at night indefinitely.
Grambling student Angelina Tchougo said campus had been pretty quiet since the shootings. As a freshman from Minnesota, Tchougo said she was inspired to go to Grambling because of her father, who always wanted to attend the university. While she loves the homelike atmosphere and feels safe in general, she said security could be better.
“I think during homecoming they probably should’ve upped security before the events happened, instead of waiting till afterwards,” Tchougo said.
Her friend, fellow freshman Takeriah Robinson, said she finds the new curfew annoying.
“I believe the curfew is unnecessary and police are not around campus like they said they were going to be. But it’s not really an issue when it’s just students on campus.”
Many students say more needs to be done to address this long-standing issue.
“Campus security is horrible. They’re always messing with kids, but they’re not focused on the right things,” student Jackson Pitty said, mentioning that students were being stopped if they left their dorms at the wrong time.
Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana system that includes Grambling, said crime rate comparisons of the universities in the system aren’t very helpful, as each university has a separate environment and accessibility level.
Henderson said he didn’t want the shootings to overshadow Grambling’s accomplishments.
“While shootings can dominate headlines, the successes of that university are extraordinary. We’ve got to get this right, because there’s nothing that’s more important than the health and safety of students, faculty and staff and the communities,” Henderson said. “I’m highly confident that President Gallot and the Grambling community in coordination with the UL system and authorities will get this right.”
College students just hope change will come soon.
Kalincia Scott, a Grambling junior, said she stayed in her room during homecoming celebrations because she knew from experience that the crowds meant trouble. While she appreciates that Grambling is trying to increase security, she is annoyed by all the disruptions.
“There was too many people, so I knew it was going to be something. There were just too many people and I had a feeling,” Scott said. “It happens every year, every homecoming it’s a shooting or something. It needs to be something done where they don’t even feel comfortable coming on campus.
“This is a college, people come to get education. We pay for this, it’s not fair to the people on campus. We get stuff taken away from us and we get curfews and all of that because people off campus want to come shoot and do stuff like that.”
The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization driven by its mission to cast light on how decisions are made in Baton Rouge and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians, particularly those who are poor or otherwise marginalized.
This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: Grambling State had at least one shooting a year over the last 5 years