The 38-year-old man who walked into Seattle University’s Sullivan Hall Wednesday and disrupted a torts class caused Madeline Kass, a visiting law professor, to quickly reach for a button on her podium Wednesday to call campus security.
But while Kass was shaken by the incident, it seemed to frighten her students more deeply, she said — perhaps because they grew up at a time when gun violence erupting at schools and colleges has become more common, and more deadly.
“I think, given the recent shootings at Sandy Hook and in Seattle, and the constant news we hear of gun violence, everybody in that room legitimately felt scared,” Kass said.
She praised her students for keeping their cool, and for saying they would not leave the room until Kass was also ready to leave. “How proud I was of every one of those students – they were all calm, nobody panicked, nobody provoked this person,” she said. “Nobody did anything other than walk calmly out of the room.”
She said the man — who was not armed — didn’t turn over furniture, as police had reported, and didn’t threaten anyone. But it “pretty quickly became apparent he had some mental illness, or something of that nature, and what was scary was that his conduct was so bizarre and unusual, rather than aggressive,” she said.
Students have said they thought it took too long for campus security to arrive, while the university said it took about a minute for the call to be answered. Kass said she thought security came within two to four minutes, although she said every minute seemed longer.
She said the students and faculty should have a long discussion about security on campus. “I think we need to find a way to feel less scared,” she said. “But I don’t want to teach, and they don’t want to go to school, in a prison.”
The man was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass by Seattle Police and booked into King County Jail.