As mass shootings become increasingly deadly, common targets like grade schools and universities have been at the forefront of a debate as to how best protect potential victims. Far from the usual corners of reforming gun laws or arming faculty, Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan has decided to arm its students. With hockey pucks.
As absurd as it sounds, the situation that prompted the choice of pucks was even stranger. Oakland University’s doors do not lock from the inside. This poses a clear problem in an active shooter situation, and one that’s easily fixed. Except Oakland won’t spend the money to do it.
Not content to leave the glaring fault in the campus’ security, the faculty union started to raise money to resolve the problem themselves, and went to the student body for help. Enter the puck.
“Sure, the Hockey Pucks will be some level of defense against a shooter. My main goal, however, is to call attention to the fact that the doors on our campus aren’t safe,” Tyler Fox, the member of the Student Congress who proposed the pucks, told Grit Post. “Each Hockey Puck has a link to the fundraiser printed on it, allowing individuals to donate directly to the fund.”
Why pucks? Because Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon used to coach youth hockey. When asked what staff and students could bring to a potential fight with a shooter as part of the “run, hide, fight” method of countering shootings, Gordon recalled that being hit with a hockey puck hurt.
“It was not a well-thought-out strategy,” Gordon told the Detroit News. “It was a spur-of-the-moment-thing that had merit to it and kind of caught on.”
While it seems silly, there actually is some merit to the idea. Tom Discenna, president of the American Association of University Professors, cited that use of common items like billiard balls, is actually well-received in law enforcement communities. Pucks are small, hard and designed to travel quickly. They’re also remarkably cheap.
Though the idea has surprising amount of merit, it also does sound remarkably silly. Which is also the point.
“We all thought it was a joke and that they’d never actually seriously do it,” Oakland student Thomas Smith told Grit Post. “I don’t know why we would need to fundraise for that, it seems like it would be part of the year’s budget.”
But it isn’t. And that’s why each puck comes printed with the number AUFD #33395 — a number students can put into the university’s online giving service — to crowdfund the basic safety measures the university has declined to take.
“Literally, at this point, the Faculty Union and Student Congress have done more to invest in safety on campus than Oakland University itself,” said Fox.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.