Oakland University's plan to equip students with hockey pucks against armed intruders has turned out to be a well-planned, highly motivated hoax, according to reports.
On Wednesday, reports emerged that police had been teaching staff at the university in Rochester, Michigan, how to fight back against school intruders — with hockey pucks.
The training sessions were reportedly organized by the university's faculty union and were conducted by Oakland University Police Chief Mark Gordon.
"Hockey pucks provide the ability to be carried in briefcases or backpacks, are not considered a weapon," Gordon said, "and will meet the goal of distracting the shooter."
So what's the hoax?
On Monday, The College Fix reported that a professor as well as a student with knowledge of the hockey puck plan said that the program was a "publicity stunt" intended to shame the Michigan school into purchasing proper safety locks for classrooms.
The outlet reported that the program was created by students and faculty members in conjunction with the police department.
David Garfinkle, a physics professor at the university, said that the hockey puck program was nothing more than a stunt.
"The whole hockey puck thing is a publicity stunt to a) raise money for classroom locks, and b) shame the Oakland University admininistration into helping to pay for the classroom locks," Garfinkle explained.
"If the publicity stunt succeeds, it will certainly have been worthwhile," he told the outlet in an email. "Hockey pucks are not a particularly effective response to an active shooter.
"The usual suggested responses are one, run away; two, barricade yourself in; and three — only if one and two are not possible — then try to fight back in some way," Garfinkle added. "One helpful tool for option two is to have classrooms that lock from the inside."
The outlet also cited a Reddit thread, in which a poster who reportedly appeared to be the school's Student Services Director of the university's Student Congress had commented on the program.
In one of the comments, the poster said that "hockey pucks were a publicity stunt formulated by our on-campus police department, our faculty union, and [student] congress."
"And I mean, hey, it got publicity, so hopefully the admins decide to actually protect their f***ing students and put a higher priority on funding campus safety," the posting added.
The outlet reached out to the person behind the comments, who confirmed that the posts reflected her "personal opinions on the matter and the reasoning as to why I approve of this initiative."
In an official statement, the Oakland University Student Congress said:
This initiative is based around campus safety and awareness of the ineffective locking mechanisms on the current classroom doors. What the media has been saying is true, hockey pucks have been circulated throughout the university, but we are in no way saying these hockey pucks will protect you from an active shooter. They are a means of the last line of defense in an active shooter situation. The first step that should be taken is to run and then hide and then, if need be, fight back. These particular hockey pucks contain a fund number (33395) for a fund that is dedicated/designed to collect donations that will then be put towards getting effective locks on our classroom doors. Although the hockey pucks are what is gaining attention, the focus of this campaign should be the door locks and the lack of funding currently in place for them. What we are hoping to get out of this campaign is awareness that our current safety measures are ineffective in the case of an emergency and this needs to change.
A spokesperson for the campus told the outlet, "It's very important that you know this is a last resort defense idea. Many news outlets have misconstrued the context of the story in order to have a catch headline. In fact, our police chief advocates running and hiding as first options, and fighting only when there is no other way to avoid contact with an attacker."
Early reports alleged that the pucks were supposed to serve a dual purpose — a fundraiser to help equip the campus doors with appropriate locking mechanisms and for defense.
At the time of this writing, the faculty union reportedly distributed about 800 pucks to its members, and reportedly had another 1,700 on deck for students.
"[It] caused a fair amount of damage to me," Gordon said. "Anything that you can throw that's heavy and will cause damage, cause injury is the bottom line of what you're trying to do. [A hockey puck] was just a thing that was suggested that could possibly work, especially when you have 20 or 30 people in a classroom and they all throw hockey pucks at the same time, it would be quite the distraction."