When David Kyem wore his Halloween costume on campus at Central Connecticut State earlier this month, people who saw the mask over his face and the sword over his shoulder didn't know it was a costume.
Richard Bachoo, the chief administrative officer at CCSU, said at an open forum Tuesday afternoon, "You really don't know what's going on until it's over."
Bachoo made the decision to declare a campus emergency and bring in scores of heavily armed police and other emergency responders.
"You can choose to do nothing, and then have the consequence of me standing here having a conversation in a much uglier light, or you can have the decision to carry out something and hope that it turns out well," he said.
What he decided to carry out, however, was confusing to some of the 75 students and staff members who attended the hour-long forum. Students voiced their concerns and said they didn't know how to respond when the sirens sounded.
Bobby Barriault, a senior who said he learned how to respond to emergencies as an intern at the State Capitol, wanted to know what Bachoo would do to make sure everyone on campus is aware of what to do in similar emergencies.
"They didn't realize what to do," he said. "They heard the alarm over the loudspeakers, they knew something was going on over the cellphones. But they didn't know what to do."
Bachoo said that nevertheless, the campus community responded appropraitely.
"Even though people have said they didn't know what to do they did something, and they actually did the right thing," he said. "We actually had an individual that closed himself in the bathroom for over an hour and a half, til we tried to identify who we were and he could come out. So people knew at least instinctively."
The English department secretary, Lisa Michaud, said she could hear the alarm over the loudspeaker but not the voice message that followed. She told Bachoo she used the internet to figure out what was going on and got her information from the media, not CCSU.
The president of the local of the AAUP, the professors' union, Mary Ann Mahony, complained that since cellphones aren't allowed in many classes, many students and faculty didn't get the message. Central relied heavily on cellphone alerts to inform the campus as to what was happening.
"There isn't a good way to communicate with faculty in the classroom," she said. "Many of us don't bring our cellphones to class in order not to have the distraction in class of the phone going off."
Bachoo told her to leave her cell phone on going forward. He said authorities are fixing locks that didn't lock and shades that didn't shade. Bachoo added that school officials have told the department chairs how to respond to similar emergencies, and now they'll go department by department to clarify the protocol.