Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Campus Safety - Five Years Later

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Campus Safety - Five Years Later

Article excerpt

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was the site of the deadliest shooting incident by a lone gunman in U.S. history. On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people - students and faculty - and wounded others in two separate attacks before committing suicide. It's been more than five years since the shootings, and many of America's colleges and universities face the continued challenge of assessing and mitigating threats posed by unexpected emergencies and natural disasters.

In the aftermath of the shootings, 13 of the 32 families gathered together and discussed the possibility of creating a foundation. They recognized the need to ensure that the survivors would be taken care of for the rest of their lives, and that the parents, siblings and children left behind might need assistance also. But they did not just focus on themselves. Their goal was also to help others who might experience the same loss. They knew they had to try to prevent future tragedies on America's college campuses and to create a living legacy for the 32 individuals lost in that tragic incident.

In June of 2007, these families requested that the commonwealth of Virginia set aside funds for a "charitable purposes" foundation. Virginia granted their wish, and the VTV Family Outreach Foundation was born. It is not affiliated with Virginia Tech and cannot legally use Virginia Tech in its name.

The foundation set out to make the world a better place. In 2010, it was instrumental in passing SB 60S and HB 1238, both of which required the presidents and vice presidents of public universities to certify their comprehension and understanding of the institution's crisis and emergency plan and to annually conduct a functional exercise. Then in 2011, Lu Ann Maciulla McNabb, then director of programs and legislation at the foundation, enlisted Delegate Ken Plum to file HB 1748, which addressed bullying in public schools. Unfortunately, bills relating to bullying were set aside so that the Department of Education could research bullying policies.

Later that year, McNabb enlisted Virginia Sen. Mark Warner as Senate sponsor for the Campus Safety Act of 2011, initially introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott. "I also enlisted a number of state legislators in the Virginia General Assembly to introduce bills for the 2012 session which addressed various aspects of the Virginia College Mental Health Study and the suicide of Daniel Kirn. Those bills included HB 697, giving students the right to list contacts should they have mental health issues; HB 662, to create points of contact at community colleges for risk assessment and mental health action plans; SB 623, to coordinate between universities and mental health facilities regarding students receiving treatment; and SB 624, to notify parents when their student is suicidal. Unfortunately, none of these bills passed out of committee," says McNabb.

While McNabb was busy enlisting bill sponsors, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and ASME-Innovative Technologies Institute, LLC (ASME-ITI) were hard at work gathering information on best practices for campus safety. ASME published those best practices in 2010 as A Risk Analysis Standard for Natural and Man-Made Hazards to Higher Education Institutions. The standard is designed to identify, analyze and address risks on college and university campuses. It is based on the Risk Analysis and Management for Critical Asset Protection (RAMCAP) Plus process and has been officially approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

The VTV Family Outreach Foundation first learned about the ASME standard at ANSI's October 2011 annual meeting, through Jeff Pollard, executive director and professor in the department of psychology at George Mason University. The following January, McNabb sent a letter thanking ANSI for its role in the publication of the ASME standard. The standard laid out a risk management process to identify, analyze and communicate risks on college and university campuses and addresses threats to human life and well-being, as well as risks to facilities and infrastructure, and also encompasses potential operational hazards. …

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