On the Campus: Rethinking Security: Colleges Grapple with New Measures to Keep Students out of Harm's Way. (Special Section: Security)

By Rivard, Nicole | University Business, April 2002 | Go to article overview
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On the Campus: Rethinking Security: Colleges Grapple with New Measures to Keep Students out of Harm's Way. (Special Section: Security)


Rivard, Nicole, University Business


On the urban campus of University of California Berkeley, delivery trucks are as common as Laptop computers. After September 11, however, administrators grew concerned at the possibility of a vehicle with an explosive device on board entering the loading dock of a building. That's why at UC Berkeley, you'll now spy barriers restricting traffic to the main corridors; they're designed to prevent vehicles from heading directly to buildings.

SECURITY, POST-9/11

Dogs and drills. Tom Klatt, director of Emergency Planning for the university, explains that the school's new security measures don't stop there. "We've also installed electronic controls on the doors to machine rooms and rooftops, to prevent sabotage or manipulation of ventilation and electrical distribution systems, and water supplies." The school also has added more campus police officers, and has hired a bomb-sniffing dog to patrol the campus 40 hours a week, and work through lines of spectators at Large events. The dog is "on call" the rest of the time, says Klatt, who adds that the animal was put through its paces during a recent visit by former President Clinton.

But officials at UC Berkeley are focused on preparedness, too. On June 6, the university will participate in its first terrorism response exercise, Berkeley Alert. The event will also involve the city and a Local medical center, in an effort to help UC Berkeley coordinate a unified response to the simulated terrorist attack.

Yet UC Berkeley is not alone in rethinking campus security in light of 9/11. Since the tragedy, Georgetown University's emergency response team has been meeting to review and update the campus's emergency response efforts. This group now includes a representative from the school's Office of International Programs, to ensure that the unique needs of both international students studying on Georgetown's campus, as well as those studying abroad, are addressed in an emergency situation. In addition, the university hired an assistant to the president for Emergency Preparedness. This individual is responsible for assessing potential emergency situations at the university, and designing and implementing emergency response capabilities to address them.

"At this point, we remain on security alert," says Julie Green Bataille, assistant vice president for Communications at Georgetown. "We increase measures as needed, based on individual events and in consultation with appropriate security authorities. We're also moving forward to update and distribute evacuation plans in academic buildings. And our emergency response team now carries Nextel wireless phones to ensure communications via radio and Internet in the event that telephone and cellular services go down."

DOMESTIC SECURITY CONCERNS DEEPEN

Still, the concern over post-9/11 terrorism only compounds the already growing anxiety at colleges and universities about security in general. Recent events are harsh reminders to administrators that when considering ways to improve campus safety, incidences of regularly occurring campus crime cannot be ignored. On January 25, a dispute that broke out on the campus of Catawba College (NC) between Catawba students and students from Livingstone College culminated in gunfire, leaving one student dead. And in mid-February at Fairfield University in Connecticut, a graduate of the school returned to campus and, claiming to have a bomb, took hostage a classroom full of students. More recently, inside a dorm at the State University of New York Farmingdale, one student shot another after an attempt to resolve a dispute.

According to Bill Schimpf, vice president of Student Services at Fairfield University, "The real dilemma is: How do you maintain an open campus and a place where inquiry is welcome, and at the same time protect against the unforeseen? You can drive yourself crazy trying to prevent every possible occurrence of crime on campus.

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