Shots fired after CSA event



Lee Betancourt

The repercussions of Sunday morning’s incident where shots were fired in Main Lot go past the initial scare for the University. The incident was the first test of the newly implemented NOVA Alert system and may result in changes to University special events policies.

Investigations continue into the source of the shootings, although Radnor Police Lieutenant Anthony J. Antonini III said that there were no suspects as of Monday.

As The Villanovan first reported Sunday morning, an unidentified person fired between three and six shots into the air around 2:30 a.m. Since then, Radnor Police reported recovering four shells from the scene. As 911 calls went in to police, Director of Public Safety Dave Tedjeske was notified of the situation. At 2:39 a.m., nine minutes after the first reports of the shots, he sent out a NOVA Alert text message to all of the registered users.

Besides a test sent out just days before Sunday’s incident, this was the first utilization of the new communication system.

“It’s just one tool in our communication suite, but it had very good applicability in this situation,” Tedjeske said.

NOVA Alert was implemented at the beginning of this year after the University decided it needed a more uniform mode of communication after last December’s shooting incident, which, although it happened off campus, impacted students on South Campus as SWAT teams investigated. The incidents at Virginia Tech in April further reinforced the need for such modes of communication.

“We looked particularly into text messaging because students utilize it so heavily,” Chief Information Officer Steve Fugale wrote in an article on the NOVA Alert system this August. “Everyone has their cell phone with them most all of the time, but not everyone may be in front of a computer.”

This was evident Sunday morning, as recipients received the text message in under eight minutes and in many cases fewer, Fugale said.

“We were pleased with it because it went through to all cell carriers,” he said.

Fugale contrasted the communication modes of this weekend with last December.

“The whole process worked faster,” he said. “Everything was coordinated and organized well. All the right players were contacted immediately.”

Senior Jackie Stanus, who wrote a guest column in The Villanovan criticizing the communication of last year’s shooting incident in December, said that she felt this situation was handled much more smoothly.

“It was definitely effective,” she said. “I was thoroughly impressed with the improvement. I’m really happy that the school took action as quickly as it did.”

Tedjeske, who sent out the first NOVA Alert, is one of a few people with authority to activate the NOVA Alert system. The second and third text messages were sent out by Vice President for University Communication Ann Diebold.

The messages themselves, Tedjeske said, are limited to 110 characters, which contributed to the cryptic nature. This poses a chal-

to activate the NOVA Alert system. The second and third text messages were sent out by Vice President for University Communication Ann Diebold.

The messages themselves, Tedjeske said, are limited to 110 characters, which contributed to the cryptic nature. This poses a challenge when creating messages. For this reason, as well as the crisis situation that merits most NOVA Alert announcements, the wording of many messages is predetermined.

“To have completely freehanded this, especially in a time of crisis and, specifically, in that situation in the middle of the night, would have been difficult,” Tedjeske said.

Yet another challenge, Tedjeske said, was knowing when to send out the next two messages.

“With these messages … we would wait for all the facts, but at that point, too much time would have passed,” Tedjeske said. “When we’re certain enough about that information that we know not putting it out there is misinformation, we put it out there.”

The University made the decision to send out the second message at 4:54 a.m. This alerted everyone that more information about the situation had been posted on the University Web site. A third message, sent at 7:36 a.m., said that police believed the shooter had left campus. This message told everyone to “go about your normal business” and exactly met the 110-character limit.

“We put the info out there early; it’s info so that students can make decisions about their own safety,” Tedjeske added.

As of Saturday night, 8,340 plus people were registered for NOVA Alert, Fugale said. This includes students, faculty, staff and parents. The University sent out over 52,000 alerts between the three NOVA Alerts sent.

Since the incident and as of Monday night, another 288 people have signed up for NOVA Alert.

In addition, Fugale said that the University has been looking at feedback for the messages.

“We’re doing the process of checks and balances now,” he said.

Since the messages were sent out, many people have been e-mailing in their concerns about the system. The majority of these are from people who thought they had signed up for NOVA Alert but had not yet done so. Others had mistyped their e-mail address or phone number. In some cases, NOVA Alert users who had received the first two messages never got the third text, signaling the “all-clear.” Fugale said that there was no global or system problem for this.

Another troubleshooting issue is that users of Gmail or Yahoo Mail failed to receive NOVA Alert e-mails; these e-mails ended up in their spam folder.

The University had planned to perform a second test of the NOVA Alert system but, “unfortunately,” as Fugale said, it won’t have to.

Because of NOVA Alert, Fugale said that the University placed a request with Verizon to open up a channel broader than the usual 2,500 text message-batch the cell carrier generally sends out. Verizon, as one of the biggest cell carriers on campus, delivers a lot of text messages through NOVA Alert.

NOVA Alert is also available to convey weather-related information to students. Certain events do and do not qualify for a NOVA Alert. This Saturday’s incident with shots fired, however, was “incredibly clear cut,” Tedjeske said.

In addition to utilizing the NOVA Alert system, Tedjeske said that Public Safety secured residence halls near the scene of the shots, Main Lot. Extra patrols were added in the days following the shooting but only as a precaution, he said.

Before the incident, both Public Safety and Radnor Police were called to the Connelly Center, where it is believed that the incidents leading to the fired shots began.

Public Safety’s practice is to perform periodic safety checks at campus events such as “Watch Dem Roll,” the Caribbean Students Association (CSA) event that was held Saturday night from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. in Belle Air Terrace. In addition, Public Safety aided in clearing people out of the event, CSA president Stacie-Ann McIntosh said.

This is normal practice, Tedjeske said.

In this case, skirmishes inside the event were what prompted the calls to Radnor Police. Tedjeske said that the current conception of what happened is that the altercation continued from inside the building to outside. However, it is believed that fewer people were involved outside than were involved inside, he said.

The CSA event was one of many similarly-run events linked with The Office of Student Development’s Late Nite program. McIntosh said that the event was open to students both at Villanova and from other local Universities including Drexel, Haverford, Temple and UPenn. CSA communicated with other Caribbean organizations at these schools and created a Facebook invitation to the event.

Entrance was free with a WildCard; students with other school IDs paid a small fee, which McIntosh said was $5.

“We don’t have enough resources to promote elsewhere,” she said. “The event is not geared towards the average person.”

Instead, the goal was to bridge the cultural gap at Villanova and bring similar organizations from other schools to the event, she said.

It is unknown whether or not the person who fired the shots even attended the event; however, the University will revisit its policies regarding on-campus events, Vice President for Student Life Kathy Byrnes said.

“We want to step back and look at what we do,” she said. “We want to be a welcoming university, but we want to be safe – and keep our guests safe, too.”

Discussion on the subject started Tuesday morning, and the University hopes to have a solution by the end of the semester so that guidelines can be clarified and/or altered by the beginning of next semester.

Byrnes hopes that the University can come up with a win-win solution to ensure students have a “viable social life” while remaining safe.

“The solution isn’t necessarily one-size fits all,” she said. “But this provides us with an opportunity for a little self-reflection.”

McIntosh hopes that the event won’t mar CSA’s reputation.

“What upset me was that this incident could be seen as linked to our event,” she said. “CSA under no means condones violence.”