Is USF Prepared for Campus Violence?

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Staff Editorial

The exchanges in learning and working environments are based in critique, both positive and negative. They include feedback on performance and assignments, work ethic, attitude, and overall deliverables. Ultimately, tension on campuses and in offices are unavoidable as a result of the inability to take criticism, or in the extreme situation, accept dismissal from one’s enrollment or position. In light of the recent shooting threat at Mississippi State and the fatal shootings of two WDBJ broadcast journalists in Virginia, the Foghorn staff has decided to tackle the issue of school and workplace violence. As a staff, it was generally agreed upon that more should be done to protect students and faculty in the scenario where a member of our campus community is the victim of violence. 

In order to gauge the current preparedness for campus emergencies, we consulted with Daniel Lawson, the executive director and chief of Public Safety at USF. When asked about the precautions that Public Safety currently has in place, he stated, “dispatchers, officers, and community service officers went through a nationally recognized active shooter training program during intersession break.” Public safety officers from other nearby universities also attended this training program and more than 250 interested USF faculty were offered active shooter training last fall. Campus officers have also been providing safety training to students in the last few weeks. When asked about Public Safety’s recent endeavors to maximize emergency response effectiveness, Lawson mentions that last year, USF budgeted for a full-time Director of Campus Resilience, Eric Giardini, who has since coordinated administration, faculty and staff active shooter training, updated our emergency response manual, and has been organizing faculty and staff in order to ensure they are always prepared for the worst.

Currently, Public Safety’s 24-hour dispatch center is in direct communication with the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Fire Department, and Emergency Services on a regular basis. This past summer the Public Safety Patrol and Dispatch Center was renovated to include closed circuit television surveillance, alarm system, and report management systems. When addressing how faculty are prepared to deal with on-campus emergencies, Lawson said, “A few years back Student Life Division developed a Red Folder that includes the information necessary to prepare, respond, and recover from emergencies. These folders are periodically updated. Hard copies are distributed and e-copies can be found on the Student Life website.”

An ongoing project from Public Safety involves issuing an electronic escort app called Pathlight. Public Safety plans to review new apps and programs they could administer to increase campus safety. Lawson mentions that there are plans in motion to continue mental health identification, de-escalation techniques, and cultural and ethnic awareness.

As a staff we agree that along with all the thorough measures that Public Safety has adopted in order to prepare for emergencies, we should also implement on-campus emergency training for students who work for Student Leadership and Engagement, as they tend to work late on campus. This includes organizations like USFTV, the Graphics Center, and ASUSF Senate. There is also consensus for installing panic buttons in classrooms, conference rooms, student organization offices, the library, the gym, and the residence halls. Lawson mentions that Public Safety has considered the idea of panic buttons more than once but has not implemented them yet because issues that may arise. Those issues include reliability, maintenance, false alarms, and the installation process for the buttons. We have considered the negative aspects of having panic buttons, but consent that what we can gain from panic buttons outweighs the losses of having the buttons installed. An on-campus panic button that would alert Public Safety’s 24-hour dispatch center would allow students to swiftly contact emergency services, if unable to dial the office number, or even 911. While Public Safety would probably call for SFPD backup in a crisis, they would reasonably be able to reach the panicked much faster due to their extreme familiarity with USF’s campus layout.

Note from Public Safety: The Director of Campus Resilience, Eric Giardini is hosting USF’s inaugural Preparedness Day Fair on September 15th from 11 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. in Gleeson Plaza.

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