Education

In Wake of Fatal Shooting, Texas Southern University Drafts New Safety Plan

But TSU President John Rudley said that the safety situation is going to get more complicated next year, when Texas’ new “campus carry” law takes effect.

TSU President John Rudley address law enforcement experts at the art museum on campus
TSU President John Rudley asked experts from law enforcement agencies in the region for their advice to improve campus safety.

Texas Southern University convened a special safety task force Thursday, pulling together officials from federal, state and local agencies to brainstorm better safety measures.

The historically black college in Houston’s Third Ward is grappling with campus safety in the wake of a fatal shooting earlier in October and also in preparation for a new Texas law that will bring more firearms to campus.

TSU President John Rudley said that he opposes that law, which takes effect on Texas public colleges next August.

“Our primary mission is education. Now we got to deal with people who have licenses to carry guns on our campus. So wouldn't you think that would be a problem? It's kind of to me like it's a perfect storm,” Rudley said. “We’re here to educate students, we’re not here to try to referee between a gun battle between a person who has a right to carry a gun and a student who may just be an innocent bystander and gets shot accidentally because a person who has a license is on campus.”

Even before that campus carry law takes effect, shootings have shaken TSU’s student body.

There have been three shootings on TSU grounds this year, and two people have been killed. That’s among more than 50 shootings at schools across the country, according to a tally kept by an advocacy group that pushes gun reform.

The question that Rudley is trying to answer for parents, students and also himself is simple: “What are you doing to improve safety on your college campus?”

The safety task force pulled together officials from agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harris County Constables’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Officials with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies gather at TSU for a special campus safety session.
Officials with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies gathered Thursday at TSU to brainstorm how to improve campus safety.

Rudley told those officers that TSU needs their help as experts to keep the campus safe — which he sees not as a “one-day story” but as an issue “365 days a year.”

They discussed ideas, such as how to work together more closely, use technology and, perhaps most importantly, engage students.

Rudley said that the final list of recommendations will be implemented immediately. They are:

  1. Build stronger relationships and partnerships with federal, state and other law enforcement agencies in the area.
  2. Increase police visibility on campus by using bicycle officers and other alternative transportation.
  3. Hold community forums with students and training sessions with them.
  4. Apply for grants to supplement the police operations
  5. Use technology, such as cell phone apps

Since the fatal shooting earlier this month, TSU has taken other measures such as an 11 p.m. curfew in all student housing. Houston police and sheriff deputies with the county have also stepped up their patrols in the neighborhood.

But several students on campus said that they don’t always feel safe. They have their own ideas: bring more Houston police officers to patrol campus, for police to get to know students better and get out of their cars.

“If they just be visible, I think (the violence) it’d stop a lot,” said Kevan Hall. “Like actually on the Tiger Walk and not just in their car driving around.”

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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