University of North Dakota Professor Heidi Czerwiec says she experienced “fear” and “rage” when she observed two men with guns dressed in army fatigues walking across campus.
The English professor hid under her desk and called 911, and she has vowed to do it again.
It turns out that the gunmen were Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets making their way to a “Leadership Lab” training drill.
Prof. Czerwiec described her reaction in a letter to the Grand Forks Herald.
“I look up from my office computer to see two figures in camo with guns outside my window. My first thought is for my students’ and my safety: I grab my phone, crawl under my desk and call 911. The dispatcher keeps me on the line until someone can see if ROTC is doing maneuvers. I can barely talk—first, with fear, and then with rage when the dispatcher reports back that yes, in fact, I’ve probably just seen ROTC cadets, though they’re going to send an officer to check because no one has cleared it with them. They thank me for reporting it.”
The associate professor of English also took exception to a follow-up phone call from a university official who “scolded” her for calling 911, adding that the ROTC group has permission to engage in training exercises at the school for the next few weeks, something that, according to her, was news to the 911 dispatcher
“So I reply that I guess I’ll be calling 911 for the next couple weeks—and I will. Every time,” she promised about what she considers inappropriate military maneuvers given the spate of school shootings.
Prof. Czerwiec also reportedly left a voicemail for the campus ROTC that “There is no (expletive) reason why I should have to be terrorized like this, to look up and see gunman on the quad and dive under my desk thinking that perhaps we’re under attack or something.”
ROTC cadets do not use live weapons in their training.
A University of North Dakota spokesman issued a statement in response to this incident, which has since gained traction on social media.
“We did send an email notifying all students, faculty and staff that ROTC would be holding exercises throughout the spring in the Quad (or Mall) portion of campus (ROTC holds these exercises in the fall and the spring). But we recognize that the notification wasn’t sufficient. The University will now send a campus notification before each exercise, and we will also notify the faculty member each time there will be exercises. We provide a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff, but in this instance we could have done a better job of helping students and employees know that this was a safe training exercise.”
In a statement of her own to WDAZ TV in Grand Forks, Prof. Heidi Czerwiec gave an additional take on what happened when she called 911 on what was subsequently determined to be ROTC cadets.
“Much of the information being dispersed on this incident is misleading. I saw two young men with guns outside my office. They were not obviously part of any training, and we had not been notified there would be any training that day. I called 911 to report it in order to protect myself, my students, and my coworkers. I have nothing against ROTC or its cadets — they are some of my finest students. But in this current climate of school shootings, I’m sure many would agree that having students run across campus with guns while classes are in session is unwise and irresponsible. When I said I would call 911 again, I was saying that any time I see something suspicious that is not obviously part of a drill, I will call it in. At the university, we are told, ‘if you see something, say something.’ I am doing my job.”
Commenting on this incident at the University of North Dakota, Twitchy rhetorically asked “How about this — if your goal is public safety, why would you flood the emergency lines for something you know is not a threat?”
In her letter to the local paper, Heidi Czerwiec began by explaining that “Apparently, it’s not enough that UND’s administration is attacking the quality of education by cutting programs and experienced faculty and jacking class sizes. Now, we must also feel under physical attack as well.”
Given all the circumstances, do you think that University of North Dakota Professor Heidi Czerwiec acted appropriately or overreacted when she spotted two “armed” men on campus who were actually ROTC cadets?
[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]