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Area colleges eye security measures
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The recent shooting spree at Virginia Tech by Seung-Hui Cho, 23, has many colleges and universities reviewing their security measures and policies to ensure students’ safety.
It also has the nation questioning how such a tragic event could have been avoided in light of the recent information on Cho’s mental status, erratic behavior and morbid writings.
With information still coming forth and the investigation still in its infancy, many see the tragedy as a way to emphasize the responsibility administrators and students share in communicating potential threats.
David Smith, president of Brewton-Parker College, which has a campus in Liberty County, reflected on the situation in Virginia the day after the shooting.
“No institution could have foreseen the events that took place and had a fully satisfactory outcome in the matter,” he said. “We held a meeting with security and executives in charge of campus safety the day after the incident to discuss our current plan and see where we may need to make changes.
“One thing we determined was that, although our policies are posted on the school’s Web site, it is difficult to find; therefore we want to make the changes necessary to make that document more readily available for the students,” he said.
Many campuses regard communications as a key component of any emergency plan and are taking the necessary steps to either implement them or test them to measure whether they are successful.
“We are in the final development stages of a system in which each student will be assigned a campus email address where they can receive messages instantly through an email blast in case of situations like these,” Gail Eubanks, spokeswoman for Savannah Technical College in Savannah and Liberty County, said. “We are always reviewing and updating our policies as needed. We are constantly communicating within our campus and our sister organizations to ensure that everyone is on the same plan.”
Students and faculty are encouraged to be active participants in emergency plans by reporting anything they consider to be suspicious or unsafe.
“We rely on the students, faculty and staff to be our eyes and ears, and report anything they feel is unsafe or dangerous,” Armstrong Public Relations Specialist Francisco Duque said. “We have 24-hour, on-campus police and, if needed, we have mutual aid agreements with different law enforcement agencies to assist us. We do have the capability to send a blast email message to the students’ computers or cell phones and broadcast any situation that is taking place.
“On campus there are emergency phones that students can use to dial 555 to report anything they need to,” he said.
For many people, gun control has become a key issue as legislators look to review current policies. But more specifically, the issue may be in the enforcement of current laws.
“The state of Georgia has a statute against any weapons being within 1,000 feet of a school or university (Ga.16-11-127.1),” Duque said. “Armstrong, as with most other institutions, has strict policies about weapons on campus and housing.”
Savannah Tech and Brewton-Parker have similar regulations on their campus as well, and they are printed in the student handbook given to new students and can be found on their Web sites.
At all three, the campus administration and authorities have the right to check for weapons in the housing areas and on someone’s person if they have probable cause to do so.
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