Tech students react to shooting and vigil aftermath

Photo courtesy of Tim Felbinger

Campus has seen many new visitors from external media outlets this week all attempting to cover the events surrounding the death of Scout Schultz.

The Technique would like to address the views of several students in order to provide some insight into the actual thoughts and feelings of the student body.

The death of Scout Schultz and violent riots after the vigil held in Schulz’s memory have sparked debate over the actions and current protocols of GTPD and incensed passionate students to create a heightened dialogue surrounding mental health awareness on campus, especially with regards to the LGBTQIA community.

Students’ responses to GTPD’s actions on Saturday night are varied. Some believed that GTPD’s actions were justified given the situation, while others believed that GTPD could have taken alternative measures to de-escalate the situation.

What people outside Tech’s community may not know is the background and history of the relationship between GTPD and the student body.

“What happened on Saturday was devastating for everyone,” said Courtney Allen, fifth-year ID. “I believed full-heartedly that GTPD did everything they could, especially with the information given. I’m surprised by people’s reactions so far. With all the information we now have on all of the components of Scout’s life and recent mental history, I don’t think people understand that the officers couldn’t have known that information in that moment. The call to GTPD was about a suspicious person with a knife, possibly with a gun, and possibly intoxicated. The officers went in with only this information and a description of the person … I hope more people will try to understand what information was available at the time.”

Other students have a markedly different perspective.

“I absolutely do not think GTPD was justified,” said a fifth-year CS who requested to not be named. “I think it’s absurd to think that a police officer wouldn’t be trained to handle a situation like that without causing the death of a Georgia Tech student. Police are called to situations where a person is literally walking on an edge … to treat them like they have no higher expectations than any lay person is an insult to their position and the responsibility we appoint to them. GTPD should be trained in crisis de-escalation, and they should not carry firearms.”

Another issue brought up about GTPD’s actions was the absence of nonlethal weapons.

“The only issue with the police in this instance was a lack of non-lethal force and the lack of adequate training,” said Ashely Alred, third-year EE. “GTPD has done a wonderful job of keeping us safe in the past; just the fact that this was the first time that an officer fired a gun on campus is a testament to that. It is not the officer’s fault that they were not trained properly and didn’t have adequate non-lethal weapons. It is the fault of whoever oversees that.”

While there are varied views on whether or not GTPD’s actions on Saturday night were justified, there is one commonality between all students — that the violent riots in the aftermath of the vigil held in Schultz’s memory were disrespectful to Schultz and those close to them.

“I am disgusted with the fact that outsiders took this moment of grieving and mourning and turned it into a chance to be violent,” Allen said. “I believe our campus was robbed from a healthy process of dealing with what happened on Saturday and I’m truly sorry for all the students that were disrespected in their time of loss.”

“The events of the night of the vigil were unacceptable,” said Rob Montgomery, fifth-year ME. “I didn’t know Scout Schultz, but I’m sure they’d be ashamed of what people turned their memorial ceremony into … how shameful that those who brought the violence to campus were so quick to twist such a tragedy into a political tool in their nationwide assault on peaceful discourse.”

When a police car was set on fire and two officers were injured during the riots, there was an outpouring of support for GTPD.

Allen, who started the Facebook event, “Thank a GTPD Officer,” said “We need to stand together as a school and support one another, including GTPD and the communities facing a heavy loss. When I heard about the riots, my heart immediately went to the officers that responded to it. I recognized that they were in a place that would be judged no matter what they did during the riot. That’s why the event was created. I wanted to recognize that the officers were still trying their best, as they do every day, for everyone’s safety. I hope people will also recognize that even if they believe the officers that responded on Saturday were wrong, the officers who responded and were injured during the riot were different officers. We need to recognize the good actions in this dark time. More importantly, we need to stand as One Georgia Tech.”

Similarly, Montgomery, the vice president of Marksmanship Club, helped in the creation of a GoFundMe page for GTPD.

“We were deeply disturbed by the far-leftist hate group that invaded our campus and attacked our police officers, unprovoked,” Montgomery said, speaking on behalf of the Marksmanship club. “We’ve worked with GTPD on firearms safety for years now, so we were absolutely incensed by Monday night.”

While the efforts in showing GTPD support were well-intentioned,  many students also believe that support of GTPD detracted from what should have been the main focus — the fact that a minority group lost their leader and friend, and that the members and supporters of the LGBTQIA community were hurting.

“The campus community seems to really be centering GTPD and focusing on supporting GTPD,” said Anna Harrison, fifth-year EE. “While I understand that this is maybe a more well-known entity, Scout’s friends and the LGBTQIA+ community on campus are going through the loss of a friend and leader and should be centered and supported right now, especially given their historical oppression.”

Caroline Ware, fourth-year BME agreed. “I do not support the overshadowing of these issues by anti-police and pro-GTPD voices. … the overwhelming ‘Thank you GTPD’ response is very inappropriate in that it masks the real issues: preventing the death of any more students.”

Recently, the dialogue has moved from the justification of the events that transpired Saturday night and the riot to the root of the problem — mental health.

Students are calling out the Counseling Center for its lack of resources, especially given the rigor of Tech’s curriculum and the large student body, advocating for changes to be made by the administration.

With only sixteen counseling sessions per student for his or her entire time at Tech, an average of four sessions per year is often not enough for many students who seek mental guidance and help.

From having the gender neutral bathrooms unlocked in Clough Commons at night to eliminating the counseling session limit for students as well as hiring more counselors and psychiatrists to meet the demand, students are speaking out about the underlying reasons for mental health issues at Tech and potential solutions that the administration can offer.

“There is so much Georgia Tech could be doing,” said Julia Grey, third-year BME who knew Schultz in a statement during an interview with 11Alive news. “There is so much with regards to mental health, there’s so much they could do with regards to the counseling center. Bud Peterson and Georgia Tech are failing the students … they’re just wanting to return to the status quo. And the thing is, if we return to the status quo, more people are going to keep hurting. People are hurting right now at Georgia Tech.”