MUST WE FORT UP AGAIN? At one time, the residential college was a self-contained unit, in which living, dining, worshiping, teaching, and study facilities were contained in a compound that could be gated against intruders. Oxford University, for example, is a collection of thirty-some colleges, many of which have all of these facilities. I offer a look at Oxford's Christ Church College, where the dining hall is the prototype for the Hogwarts refectory.

Early college administrators recognized the possibility of forting up with an open space to allow more sunlight in. Hence the quadrangle, as pioneered at Oxford's Merton College.

Thus, the use of "Quad" to refer to the open space surrounded by free-standing buildings on the more open campuses (the martial connotations of that word played down) of today. The forted-up quadrangle design survives in some of the free-standing buildings, such as Adams and Tripp Halls among the Lakeshore Dorms of the University of Wisconsin. Note, however, that the university itself is open to visitors, whether driving or walking in from the south, or boating in from the north. That's consistent with the Wisconsin Idea that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state (and there are more than a few expat Badgers carrying the idea to Siberia or DeKalb.)

Now come suggestions that universities install metal detectors, either in buildings or at the gates of campus. That is, if there are gates. (We have two sets of ceremonial gates at Northern Illinois, one establishing a formal setting on the old Normal School grounds, another attempting to class up the Lucinda Avenue entrance to the west side residential complex and the athletic fields. Both sets are for show.) I suppose one could reconfigure college campuses in the style of a theme park, with all the parking in one place and all the attractions in another. The mind boggles. Or put them in the buildings? There are five entrances to the Cole Hall concourse, as well as the rear entrance used by the shooter. At class changing time, all entrances are in use, with students coming and going, often in a hurry: our ten minutes between classes on Monday-Wednesday-Friday is insufficient to get from Cole to Barsema or Stevenson to Montgomery. They're toting cell phones and laptops and car keys and we're going to go TSA on them? Come off it.

For that matter, added security is going to have trouble identifying a threat. With the help of some Associated Press video (click the "NIU Shooting" link, be alert to some squirrely add-ons) and the interactive campus map, dear reader, imagine you are tasked with campus security. You observe a Goth-looking male removing a guitar case from a car parked in the visitor parking lot. He crosses the bridge leading toward the Watson-Zulauf-Cole-Stevens complex. The theater department is in Stevens. Do you keep observing him, or do you judge it as business as usual? Perhaps from your vantage point you're not able to observe whether he goes into Stevens or continues past Stevens to the fork in the footpath. If you continue to observe, does it matter whether he goes left or right? To the left is Watson, where a guitar player would not be out of place in the languages departments, or in forensics. But if you're wrong, and he's on his way to DuSable Hall, a maze of twisting passages, all different ... To the right is Cole. Business as usual? But also to the right is Reavis, home to the English department. Or perhaps he takes the more direct path, around the Stevens Annex and up the steps that lead directly to the back door of Cole. Threat alert, or perhaps he has a gig at the coffeehouse after class?

Now let's consider concealed carry by professors and students. The class of advocates for concealed carry includes many fans of this weblogger, who never uses ten words to describe something when a thousand will do. I'll keep it short. You Observe a stranger on stage. You Orient yourself to the presence of a shotgun in his hands. You Decide to shoot back. Did you Act fast enough? Too slow: you're down anyway. Too fast: he's down. Did you really see the gun? What if there's no gun? What weight does your loss function place on false positives?

There's more information to come. For now, think about the tradeoffs inherent in forting up.

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