Univ. upgrades campus security

Lindsay Shoff

In response to the perceived increasing threat of terrorist attacks, the University has heightened campus-wide security measures and has updated its emergency preparedness plan.

These changes, which were made by the Emergency Preparedness Task Force, were announced last Friday in an e-mail sent to the University community by Robert Morro, task force head and executive director of the Facilities Management Office.

The most visible change has been the expanded presence of the Department of Public Safety around campus. The department has increased both the number of officers on duty and the number of patrols for all shifts. Since the changes were implemented, Public Safety officers have enforced heightened parking and driving regulations and have monitored buildings more closely.

“You [were able to] pull up to Bartley and drop off a paper, but now someone is going to ask you what you’re doing,” Morro said.

“We are going to be a lot more aggressive about parking too close to buildings.”

The task force has also heightened precautions taken for suspicious packages and wary behavior.

Additions to the emergency preparedness plan included strategies for dealing with chemical, biological and explosive threats. The previous plan contained procedures for bomb threats as well as earthquakes and other natural disasters. Also, while the earlier version of the plan included steps for evacuating individual buildings, this new rendition details organized steps to evacuate complete sections of campus.

Expressing his satisfaction with the University’s preparedness for an emergency, Morro said, “We know how many people fit into certain buildings, and we have a place for an emergency command center equipped with 30 ready-to-use emergency phones.”

Morro said the threat of terrorism was the primary but not the only motivation for updating security procedures. “We were going through the [periodic] revision cycle,” he said. “An increased number of concerned parents were calling the University to see what we were doing about the situation.”

Some students are not supportive of the newly implemented restrictions. “I think that it’s the result of parents worrying too much about their children,” sophomore Margot MacKay said.

“It’s more of an inconvenience than a precaution.”

Many students also disagreed with the secretive nature of the new plan. When freshman Mike Malloy tried to pick up a friend on main campus Friday night, he was not allowed to enter. “[The Public Safety officer] said I wasn’t allowed on campus because of a heightened security issue,” he said. “I asked him what he meant by that and he said he couldn’t tell me because he didn’t want to start any rumors.”

Morro said, “We didn’t want to make [the precautions] so public because it would scare people.”

Adding to the confusion was this weekend’s snowstorm. Morro claimed cars are never allowed to drive freely through campus when there is a large volume of snow, and it just so happened that snowfall overlapped with the increased security. He called it a “fortuitous coincidence.”

Other students supported the heightened security. Sophomore Laura Egan said, “They have the responsibility of caring for over 6,000 students, let alone staff and administration. I think they have a duty to take safety measures.”

Members of the task force included Jeff Horton, director of Public Safety, Paul Pugh, dean of Students, Kathy Byrnes, assistant vice president for Student Life, Christine Lysionek, director of Residence Life, Barbara Clement, director of the Office of Communication and Public Affairs, Bob Mays of the Office of University Information Technologies and Erica Allen-Lynch, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.