Faculty now required to acknowledge security alerts
Safety on school campuses has become a nationwide concern in the months following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., and Columbia is taking steps to prepare its employees in case of an emergency.
In a Dec. 17, 2012 email, the Office of Campus Safety & Security informed all Columbia employees about a new policy requiring them to acknowledge safety messages and AlertWave security alerts, available through IRIS, a faculty web portal.
The email states college employees have until Feb. 22 to acknowledge AlertWave messages that have already been sent to them.
“Because of the seemingly more frequent incidents of mass shootings, we decided that we should be more proactive in terms of letting our community know [about safety precautions], particularly our staff and faculty,” said Robert Koverman,
associate vice president of Campus Safety & Security.
AlertWave which was installed four years ago, is a system of more than 2,000 individual devices, including alarms, speakers, strobe lights and LED screen displays, all of which are installed throughout the campus to alert staff members and students of security concerns, according to Koverman.
When AlertWave distributes a new message, faculty members will now have to fill out an acknowledgement form online to verify that they reviewed it, according to Koverman. These messages detail safety plans, Koverman said, and despite having to set a mandatory response date, the college has never had an issue facilitating safety communication.
“Our community is very compliant when it comes to responding to emergencies,” Koverman said. “This just introduces the faculty members to the system. It’s the only way we can assure ourselves that
Crime on Columbia’s campus isn’t a pervasive issue, according to Koverman. This year, Campus Safety & Security has only posted three campus safety alerts on its website. All three were incidents of robbery, two of which involved Roosevelt University students. According to the reports, Columbia students were made aware of those disturbances because of Roosevelt’s proximity to Columbia.
According to Campus Safety & Security’s website, there were seven safety alerts during the fall 2012 semester, all of which were robberies.
Under the Jeanne Clery and the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Columbia and other higher education institutions are required to compile a report of all crimes committed on campus. According to Columbia’s 2012 Annual Crime Statistics & Fire Safety Report, the most common incidents on campus are alcohol law violations, with approximately 360 violations last year, as reported by The Chronicle Oct. 15, 2012. The second most common offenses are drug-related violations, followed by robberies and burglaries, the report said.
Ashlee Miller-Berry, a student-at-large, said students should be informed of Columbia’s security measures before they enroll.
“I don’t really know any of the safety protocols,” Miller-Berry said. “I wish someone would inform me of what those are.”
There is a safety plan in place, Koverman said, but confidentiality is key to its success, adding that the more knowledge there is regarding the plan, the more vulnerable it becomes.
AlertWave is one component of the emergency plan, in addition to campus security guards and the Chicago Police Department, Koverman said, adding that he hopes to meet with all faculty members via departmental meetings to discuss campus safety, which is a time-consuming process.
“The intent is to one day meet face-to-face with different departments to explain what to do, should an emergency occur,” Koverman said. “Because we have such a large number of faculty, it’s difficult
Sarah Blythe, a senior photography major, said she attended a high school where lockdown drills were common. In the event of an emergency at Columbia, she said she would know what do, but she worries other students would not, which is why it would be beneficial for students to about learn the emergency plan.
“If [the college] really said what safety protocols are in place, I think people would feel more safe,” Blythe said.