College campuses prep for NATO summit
With the beginnings of the NATO summit in motion, Columbia, Roosevelt University and other campuses in the South Loop are preparing for four days full of protests and thousands of people coming from around the globe.
Columbia’s campus will close May 18 – 21, and security has been heightened in each college building. Security personnel have gone through an eight-hour specialized NATO training program, sponsored by AlliedBarton, the school’s security contractor, according to Bob Koverman, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security.
“There will be security officers in the buildings, and we will have patrols on the street,” Koverman said. “We are also in touch with the city of Chicago, the federal, state and local authorities in terms of getting updated information on what’s happening.”
Wood paneling has been provided by the school in case of any damage to the windows or doors, according to Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment. She said that other than NATO security training and the wood paneling, the college has not taken any out of the ordinary actions and very little money was used in preparation for the summit. The school plans to use the wood later this summer to build a barrier around the 618 S. Michigan building, when its façade is under construction.
Berg said that cameras are in every building on campus and all went through a routine upgrade program that was already in the college’s budget.
“We really coordinated with everyone,” Berg said. “About six weeks ago, we pulled together various departments within the college and made sure they were preparing under [Koverman’s] direction.”
Koverman said that the college’s security has been planning for the summit since September. The Office of Facilities Management made sure there was a schedule in place to have engineers in each building around the clock, in case of any damage, in addition to stocking up on necessary materials, like first aid kits.
Berg said that Campus Safety and Security and Campus Environment met with the Information Technology Department of Columbia in order to turn off Wi-Fi across campus, starting May 16, so no one can hack into the school’s system.
Human Resources coordinated with the rest of the school to make sure there was a solid plan for informing the staff and students of school closings and other procedures, Berg said. No one will be expecting any mail delivery while the summit takes place, she added.
“We are trying to be careful and anticipate things but not go overboard,” Berg said. “There are no specific funds set aside for building damages from NATO, but if we needed to replace a window or anything, we would be able to do that. The buildings are insured if there is some significant loss.”
Other campuses in the South Loop, like that of Roosevelt University, are heightening security and planning accordingly for NATO.
Roosevelt’s campus will be closed during the summit and the construction of the Lillian and Larry Goodman Center will stop until May 22, according to Michael Cassidy, athletic director of Roosevelt University.
“No one mandated us to [cease construction],” Cassidy said. “We just thought it was in the best interest for our own liability purposes and for our safety at large. We didn’t want to incur any losses in terms of basic construction supplies, which could go missing should anyone decide to get adventurous.”
Cassidy said he saw workers apply graffiti-proof film on the newly constructed “vertical campus” at 425 S. Wabash, in case someone decided to tag the building.
Koverman said that the biggest protest out of the three occurring near campus is on Sunday, May 20 at 10:30 a.m., when demonstrators will start marching at the Petrillo Bandshell, 233 S. Columbus.
He said that there is a contingency plan in place in the event of a break-in, and there is back up security if needed.
“We have the utmost confidence in our security and engineering staff in terms of being able to react, should an incident occur,” Koverman said. “Certainly we can’t prevent whatever activities will happen on the street, but we have full confidence in the CPD and other authorities to handle those events.”