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Safety

Newer campus security systems capitalize on the ubiquity of mobile devices.

Police officers at the University of South Florida sprung into action one afternoon last February when a text message flashed on a computer screen at the campus 911 operations center, alerting the dispatcher that a student had a .25-caliber pistol in his dorm room.

On college campuses, students are often reluctant to report a crime, whether it’s being committed by a fellow classmate or a stranger.

One way to combat this problem is for universities to train bystanders on the need to do something when a potential crime or suspicious activity occurs, says Middle Tennessee State University Police Chief Buddy Peaster.

A child is abducted from a local middle school. The abductor flees to a local college campus, where he crashes into another car resulting in the death of two students. He runs into a wooded area with his hostage. A manhunt begins, an employee is shot, and additional people are taken hostage inside an academic building.

These events were all part of a well-scripted drill, not an actual tragedy. Nevertheless, anxiety ran high.

After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, emergency response teams at Boston-area colleges had to act fast. Between reaching out to the community and accounting for students and faculty running or attending the race, institutions had much to contend with that day.

Managers from Boston College, Suffolk University, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston shared their experiences during a recent online forum aimed at helping administrators across the country learn about their actions in the wake of the tragedy.

As the rest of world gets on with their lives, those of us who call Massachusetts home are reminded daily of why the Bay State has always been Boston Strong. Speaking at a national interfaith service after the Marathon bombings, President Obama remarked, “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we’ll pick ourselves up. We’ll keep going.

Harassment and sexual assaults were second only to athletics in Title IX allegations filed with the Office for Civil Rights from 2009 to 2011.

Sexual assault on campuses has been in the spotlight lately, leading to conversations among administrators and policymakers about improving Title IX and Clery Act compliance while better protecting students.

These days there’s a lot of attention on delivering content and services to the second, third, and now fourth screens - laptops, cell phones and tablets. One of these services is mass notification, or Emergency Alert System (EAS) messaging. While reaching all of these new screens provides extensive coverage, skipping the original first screen, the television, leaves a gaping hole in the plan.

In the wake of last week’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., more than 160 college and university presidents are calling for stricter gun laws.

The college presidents signed an open letter to U.S. policy makers that was drafted by the leaders of two Georgia schools, Lawrence M. Schall, president of Oglethorpe University, and Elizabeth Kiss, president of Agnes Scott College.

The letter calls for:

In an era when higher education leaders are more mindful than ever of potential threats to the safety of those living, learning, and working on campus, security planning has reached new levels of complexity. Few would argue that at least some security measures should be highly visible to the campus community. Just as in society at large (think of the police cruiser parked in the median of a busy highway), the right level of visibility can prevent campus crime or violence.

The search-based filtering techniques used by social media monitoring tools rely on spotting a specific set of keywords, including the name of the school. Since people can make valid threats using words outside that list, monitoring tools could never identify threats comprehensively.

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