HBCU DIGEST: Mass shooting is latest chapter in lack of leadership response to violence at Grambling State

Shootings and murders have become a tragic hallmark of fall activities at Grambling State University, and someone must be held to account to save lives. 

Classes at the university were canceled for a second straight day, following the second of two deadly shootings at the campus last week. That’s about two days too late at a school where people have been injured and have died in what appears to be an annual trend of violence at GSU. 

The administration says that last week’s violence was an anomaly on an otherwise peaceful campus with innocent students and well-meaning neighbors who visit for activities. That idea isn’t true and hasn’t been for a long time. 

In 2017, two men, one a GSU senior, were shot dead between two campus dormitories. In 2018, a student was shot on campus and prompted President Rick Gallot to pledge the implementation of a policy prohibiting non-students from being on university grounds. 

In 2019, two people, including a GSU police officer, were shot outside of a campus party. In 2020, gunfire outside of dormitories injured a non-student following a large campus fight

A review of the university’s most recent federal reporting on campus safety shows that while overall crime is down, arrests related to weapons possession exponentially increased between 2019 and 2020.

These numbers underscore the non-existent relationship between the GSU administration and the City of Grambling, which resulted in the exclusion of the City of Grambling's police force from the planning and security phases of this year’s homecoming. In 2019, unbeknownst to the city, university officials surreptitiously acquired a portion of Main Street (where the recent mass shooting occurred) citing "student safety."

“The success and safety of our students is our first priority,” said President Rick Gallot about the acquisition in 2019. “This improvement allows our staff the operational flexibility to address dynamic security requirements and support the functional needs of the University.”  

Last week, because of GSU’s jurisdiction over the roadway and a lack of municipal access to it, emergency vehicles with lifesaving equipment were blocked from getting to the victims in a timely manner.

"Our students come here for an education and far too often it's outsiders who have created these situations that have put life and limb into in danger," (Grambling State President Rick) Gallot recently told local media. "That's not why we're here. That's not what we're about after 120 years, and so again, our priority is keeping our students safe." 

Six shootings, four deaths, dozens of injuries, and a world of fear and broken promises within the university community in just four short years. It is clear that violence at Grambling is not an anomaly, it is a part of the change of seasons at the university.

And since leadership can’t manage it, maybe it is time for the community to consider a change there, too.