OU’s hockey puck security awareness campaign creates buzz

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 30, 2018

 These hockey pucks are part of a public awareness campaign about campus safety.

These hockey pucks are part of a public awareness campaign about campus safety.

Photo provided by Oakland University

There’s no way to tell when or where an emergency will strike.

On the 1,400-acre campus of Oakland University, officials say awareness is everything.

The college’s faculty members and student leaders are embracing a quirky new campaign to spread awareness about safety and security at the university through an unlikely tool — a hockey puck.

A university spokesperson said the idea sparked from a self-defense training session Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon recently held for faculty leadership.

During the training, Gordon said that fighting an attacker should be a last resort if one cannot successfully flee or hide in an active shooter situation.

“One means of fighting the chief discusses is throwing heavy objects to distract, hurt or discourage an attacker. At a recent training, he used the example of a hockey puck, which individuals can easily carry on their person,” reads a statement from OU.

The university has a no-weapons policy on campus, so following the training, OU’s faculty union elected to purchase hockey pucks — approximately 800 for union members and 1,700 for students. The student congress also jumped on board and ordered approximately 1,000 hockey pucks.

According to the university, the pucks, which were distributed across campus over the last few weeks, have a dual purpose — to serve as a reminder that the university’s faculty and students aren’t powerless inside classrooms, and to spread awareness about a larger campaign to improve campus security.

Each puck is printed with a number people can enter on Oakland University’s fundraising page to donate to the Police Department’s Gift Fund. Donations to the fund, according to the university, will be used to install interior safety locks on the classroom doors around campus that don’t already have them.

The distribution of the hockey pucks created a buzz around campus, according to OU Student Body Vice President Brittany Kleinschmidt.

“It got people talking, which is what we were hoping for,” she said. “The whole point of this campaign is to get people talking and raise awareness that we need door locks and we need money so we can change the door locks.”

The unconventional campaign quickly gained momentum through social media and news outlets, drawing criticism from some and causing OU to release an official statement.

“Oakland University strongly endorses dialogue regarding emergency preparedness, planning and training, and it is in this context that recent media reports have focused on the idea of using hockey pucks as defensive tools in the event of an active shooter situation. … Oakland University wishes to emphasize and reiterate that the idea of fighting an armed attacker with a hockey puck was offered in the context of a last line of defense in an active shooter situation,” the statement reads.

“I don’t think we ever planned for this to get to the outside world. It was more of just an Oakland thing,” an OU spokesperson said.

Still, Kleinschmidt said, the campaign got people talking.

“It did what we needed it to. It raised awareness … and it got our administration talking,”  she said.

The OU Student Congress, which donated $5,000 to the Police Department’s Gift Fund for the locks, aims to secure interior locks for all of the classrooms on campus.

“Right now, we are starting with South Foundation Hall, which is one of our foundations buildings, and pretty much every student has had to have a class in there. … We hope to transition to all of the other buildings as well,” Kleinschmidt said.

Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon and Oakland University professor and Faculty Union President Tom Discenna were unavailable for interviews at press time, according to an OU spokesperson. An OU official could not be reached to comment on why the school has not paid to change the locks.

The Oakland University Police Department hosts a “Surviving an Active Assailant” course, open to OU faculty and students, each month. The next class, on Dec. 10, is full, according to OU officials, but additional classes will be held in the new year. For more information on the training courses, visit https://oupolice.com/public-education/#bcon.

To donate to the OU Police Department’s Gift Fund, visit https://www.oakland.edu/giving/ways-to-give/list-of-funds and enter “33395.”