Robertson Scholars at Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill reflect on UNC shooting, emergency response

<p>Left: Duke Chapel. Lucas Sasaya / Duke Chronicle. Right: Old Well at University of North Carolina. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons</p>

Left: Duke Chapel. Lucas Sasaya / Duke Chronicle. Right: Old Well at University of North Carolina. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series unpacking Duke’s response to the Aug. 28 shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The first part, published Monday, explains Duke’s emergency response

Monday’s shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was personal for some Duke students. Robertson Scholars, who regularly travel between the campuses of UNC and Duke, are enrolled as undergraduate students at both schools. 

Junior Andrew Sun, a Duke-based Robertson Scholar, was on UNC’s campus during the incident and remained in lockdown for over three hours. 

“I paced in a basement office the entire afternoon today as UNC became the next footnote in America’s long, extensive tapestry of gun violence … We passed around fact and fiction, fear and hysteria like a hot potato: 10 dead, 16 wounded, ambulances, police cars flooding the street. In truth, we had no idea what was true and what wasn’t,” Sun wrote in a column

Reports of the Monday shooting at UNC began at 1:03 p.m. Duke first alerted senior leadership through email and published a Duke Today article at 2:51 p.m. Students received their first DukeAlert at 4:06 p.m., leaving some frustrated about the delay. For Robertson Scholars, this frustration was coupled with fear and deep concern for their classmates. 

“My first DukeAlert was after ~10 UNC alerts. It completely undersold the mass hysteria and fear and severity of the situation. I felt completely out of place back at Duke,” Sun wrote in an email to The Chronicle, reflecting on his return to Duke after the lockdown was lifted.

The Robertson Express, a bus connecting the Duke and UNC campuses, “was at Duke when the incident was reported, and it remained here [at Duke] with service suspended until the next morning,” wrote Frank Tramble, vice president for communications, marketing and public affairs in an email to The Chronicle.

Sun is not alone in his concern over the delay of Duke’s reporting and the lack of awareness among Duke students about the shooting.

Sophomore Riya Sharma, a UNC-based Robertson Scholar, found out about the shooting while in class at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. 

“I left class to go to the bathroom, and I just glanced at the time on my phone, and I saw like 30 texts from different friends asking if I was safe and if I was okay. That was how I found out, because I had no idea since I wasn't at UNC,” Sharma said.

Sharma lives at UNC and was planning on returning to the Chapel Hill campus immediately after class on Monday. Instead, she remained at Duke.

“It was kind of interesting, because Duke didn't send me an alert until the UNC alert had already been issued for maybe three hours,” Sharma said. “We had already gone through all of the stages of freaking out. We were waiting in Pitchfork’s, and I think that's when we got the first DukeAlert.” 

Similar to Sun’s sentiment, Sharma noticed a major difference in attitude between Duke and UNC students upon returning to UNC.

“People at UNC were really traumatized. It was really eerie on campus. It was quiet, and I don't know, it just felt really off. Whereas when I was at Duke, I was sitting in the [Brodhead Center], and they were literally playing the news on the TV, but people were still laughing and hanging out with their friends. They didn't seem to understand. I was in there freaking out, but no one really seemed to care to be honest,” Sharma said.

Katelyn Cai, a sophomore and Duke-based Robertson Scholar, was also planning to go to UNC on Monday afternoon before a fellow Roberston Scholar told her about UNC’s alert. 

“Both Duke & Carolina were opaque about the active shooter situation, and while I am sure there were good reasons, it only added to my alarm about the situation,” Cai wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “I was panicked and barely able to pay attention in my next lecture, because I was so worried about my friends at Carolina.” 

Madeleine Berger profile
Madeleine Berger | Editor at Large

Madeleine Berger is a Trinity senior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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