Students and faculty react to UNCA’s response to Tuesday night’s training



Student employees’ were handed t-shirts that read “Highsmith Hero” after the training.

Thursday’s 10 to 11 a.m. open forum consisted of a small group of students who gave suggestions on possible future active shooter training.  

Students acknowledged the importance of those types of training but said change is needed to incorporate a generation of students who have been in active school shootings. 

Another student said different departments need different training as some are more likely to be first contact if a situation arises, like those at the guest service desk.

One student also suggested the possibility of having more frequent drills as the possibility of an active shooter situation would be more likely on a college campus. They also suggested conducting future training in closed-off areas and possibly opening it to general students and faculty members. 

Although more training sessions were encouraged, students said emphasis must be on self-defense and how to do certain things like breaking a window, if needed, or finding safe locations to hide. As one attendee said, more information and action-based training rather than a focus on fear-mongering. 

Another student said training should be more sparsed out rather than one big session and recommended having a mediator on hand to stop things.  

Repeatedly throughout the forum, students reemphasized not placing the responsibility of stopping an active shooter on student workers. One student said disarming tutorials only focused on the context of an employee putting themselves in front of an attacker.  

A student also questioned the advice given at the training to use the Rocky Shield app rather than call 911. According to Meghan Pugh, the dean of students, the app’s recommendation is due to its geo-location feature, which is given to both local police and the Asheville police department.   

During the forum, Jessica Inman gave updates regarding student workers saying they have been contacted and checked on directly by Pro staff members. Pugh added that she also contacted the Health and Wellness center.

Pugh also said David Weldon, the director of emergency services, created the training program but was unsure if he instructed previous training.

In attendance for the meeting was Diamond Forde, an associate professor in the English department and the sole faculty member at the meeting.

Forde attended the meeting at the request of students who informed her about the open forum.

“My whole motivation for being here today was to listen to the students and understand what was happening. I think the more we listen to the students the more opportunities we will have to learn,” she said.

Forde said faculty did not receive any email warnings about Tuesday night’s meeting or the open forums.

“We had an email I think the next day, but we need more,” she said. “We need more transparency about what’s happening. When I have students who are absent, who aren’t normally absent. When I have students who are already incredibly stressed, this becomes the tip of the iceberg.” 

During Thursday’s 3 to 4 p.m. open forum, a larger group of students attended to ask Inman and Pugh questions regarding the reexamination and investigation of the training program. 

During the questioning, a student asked why Weldon was not placed on leave if the school is conducting an investigation into the training. In response, Pugh said the investigation described in the emails sent to students is solely on the training and not on any independent staff member.

“I can not speak as to whether there is an investigation ongoing, that is an HR thing,” Pugh said.

Students also questioned whether Inman or Pugh would condemn the actions taken during the training. Inman did not respond but Pugh said she would not condemn the actions.

“I don’t want to say I will condemn what happened in the room and I’m hesitant in any situation to condemn something when I didn’t see it with my own eyes,” she said.

Another student asked if the university police were aware of the training was under Inman’s jurisdiction or responsibility to know. 

“I don’t know, but that’s something I’m happy to look into,” Inman said.  

One student also questioned the ethics of giving student workers shirts that read “Highsmith Hero,” with one calling them manipulative and encouraging workers to sacrifice their lives. 

Inman and Pugh were also questioned as to why students were given the shirts, but neither responded. 


Watch the full uncut video of the forum here.