As the majority of students attend classes from home, Long Beach State moves forward with $3 million door lock renovations in response to raised concerns over student and staff safety.
On Oct. 7, 2019, the campus was placed on lockdown following an email threat of a campus shooter. As students and faculty took refuge in their classrooms, it came to the attention of many that doors across campus did not have adequate locking capabilities or locks at all.
“Honestly, I felt like we were just waiting to die or be attacked,” said Brent Pothoven, a fourth-year history major. “Kinda like in a horror movie where the killer is walking the halls and the victims are just listening for him to open the door.”
Pothoven was in his teaching credential class when the BeachAlert warned students of the potential threat.
Like many other students, his classroom doors could not lock, and the fact that those particular doors opened outward rendered a barricade useless.
“Thankfully nothing happened, but it was a flood of anxiety,” Pothoven said.
According to Director of Facilities Management Josh Cichuniec, who is leading the door lock renovations on campus, there are a series of considerations taken into account before a new lock can be outfitted to buildings’ doors.
These considerations include following building- and fire-code requirements, inspection and permitting, Americans with Disabilities Act path of travel and accessibility, hazardous material work and existing door conditions.
Cichuniec said that there is a “complexity” to the cost of each door lock as not all doors are found to be in the same condition.
Michael Gardner, director of Campus Planning and Sustainability, said the new thumb-turn locks are standard in the industry as they are ADA compliant and easy to use.
Positive identification of whether the door is locked or not is something that Gardner said was of utmost importance when looking at the type of locks to install.
“When you’re in a panic situation, you don’t want to wonder if the door is locked, you want a positive affirmation,” Gardner said.
Although these renovations began after the lockdown, Gardner echoed Cichuniec’s concerns being addressed by these changes. He said that the replaced locks allow for students to still safely exit classrooms while preventing others from entering.
“You can get out of the room but you can keep people from coming in,” Gardner said. “I think a fire is probably a lot more likely than a shooter in terms of emergencies, but either way we want to cover all potential emergencies, and we want people to feel safe. It’s very important the psychology of feeling safe and knowing that if there was a shooter you can lock yourself in the room, it’s just a more secure feeling.”
Of the total $3 million allotment from the California State University system, each door is expected to cost roughly $6,000. A total of 450 doors are slated to be renovated, however there will be varying price points as not all doors will be receiving the same renovations.
With over 8,000 rooms on campus, installing brand new locks on all doors was something the university could not simply afford, Gardner said. As a solution, resources provided by Beach Building Services on how to properly lock and unlock doors are now posted by each door.
“People have been working long and hard to make this project happen,” Gardner said. “It’s a big campus, and we want everyone to feel as safe as possible.”
Unlike Pothoven, Marissa Espiritu, a CSULB graduate who majored in illustration, was working in the 22 West magazine office during the shooter threat incident and was able to lock the doors.
However, these doors were made of glass and flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows. Because of this, during the BeachAlert she was told by her supervisor to turn off the lights, stay silent and hide.
“I mean, what is a locked glass door versus a man with a gun,” Espiritu said.
According to a Pew Research survey conducted in 2018, 57% of teens reported feeling worried about a potential school shooting occurring at their school.
As student-led organizations such as March For Our Lives gain traction against gun violence, and as legislation continues to enforce stricter background checks such as the 2016 California Proposition 63, installing these locks to CSULB’s campus brings the university one step closer to ensuring student, faculty and staff safety.
“I don’t know if there is a solution,” Espiritu said. “I’m the guy that’s mad that there are school shooters in the first place.”