Tragedy prompts campus action
Ken Fowler | Friday, April 20, 2007
Though Notre Dame created a task force in 2006 to review crisis plans, the deaths of 33 people at Virginia Tech Monday “will spur even greater review and preparedness,” University President Father John Jenkins said in an e-mail to students Thursday.
Though limited in scope, Jenkins’ message was the most in-depth explanation of Notre Dame’s security measures since Monday’s shootings.
In the 700-word letter, Jenkins said Notre Dame has procedures in place to respond to natural emergencies as well as acts of violence. The University continues to search for the best ways to communicate with students in the event of a campus crisis.
Jenkins noted the Office of Information Technology’s pilot program to send text messages to all students who provide their cell phone numbers.
University spokesman Don Wycliff said Thursday that Jenkins’ letter did not go into more detail about specific response procedures as a safety precaution, so that security details of the plan would not be compromised.
“There had been a sense all during the week that at some point it would be appropriate to address the issues,” Wycliff said. “Today seemed appropriate.”
Jenkins reaffirmed the University’s desire to have the service fully operational by fall and said officials would encourage students to participate in “this important and innovative communications initiative.”
The question of communication is only heightened by the University’s decision in 2006 to de-standardize land telephone lines in dorm rooms.
In an interview with The Observer at the beginning of the school year, Director of Integrated Communications Services at OIT Steven Ellis said only 60 students initially paid a $161 fee to have the dorm phones in their room. Every resident assistant, however, does have a landline, provided free.
In the e-mail, Jenkins expressed confidence that Notre Dame Security/Police’s (NDSP) 28 police officers and 35 additional security personnel could adequately handle major incidents on campus and work with other local emergency responders to control a crisis scene.
“These men and women receive regular training to address a wide variety of emergency situations, and the department maintains a productive and close relationship with all public safety agencies in the area,” Jenkins said.
For emergency situations, Jenkins said, the University maintains 48 call boxes throughout campus and keeps telephones in the public areas of each residence hall.
Jenkins did not detail a specific plan of action for NDSP in the event of a major campus incident and did not say what University officials have the authority to declare a lock-down on potions campus or specific buildings.
“Please know that safety is of paramount importance to all of us at Notre Dame,” Jenkins said. “While we believe we are ready to respond to a myriad of circumstances, the tragedy at Virginia Tech will spur even greater review and preparedness.”