H1N1 Virus and College Students

CWR Security Focus – October 2009

By John Enright

 

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

You might be wondering why the Security Focus Column would be talking about the H1N1 virus.  Any disease breakout on a college campus or in any organization for that matter will have a dramatic effect on security and cause security departments and officials to employ different tactics in responding to the threat and maintaining order on campus.  Anytime an organization undergoes a crisis, security is usually at the center of managing the crisis with the subject matter experts, senior executives and emergency response personnel.   With that in mind I think now is a good time to speak briefly with students regarding their responsibility when addressing the threat of H1N1.

Most colleges across the country have developed plans to deal with any outbreak of the virus even if it only reaches a few students.   University health departments have made arrangements to receive students who have been diagnosed with the virus and have established policies and procedures for treatment of students as well as limiting the spread of the virus to other students. This month H1N1 vaccinations are being distributed to colleges and universities across the country because students are in the age group of those most vulnerable to the disease.   Institutions will be challenged to insure that their student populations receive the vaccine and to also effectively manage any student(s) who come down with the disease.

The success of each institution to respond effectively to the H1N1 virus will be dependent on how the student population will conduct themselves before and during the occurrence of an H1N1 outbreak.  Students therefore have a significant responsibility in following the policies and directives established by the institutions and to insure that they remain vigilant in staying abreast of the latest information provided by their school.

Students across the country have already started to come down with the virus and institutions are responding aggressively with treatment and protocols to halt the spread of the H1N1.  To assist in stopping the spread of the virus, students must act responsibly and do their part to assist the university in responding to this threat.  The following is a checklist of sorts for students to utilize as a reminder as we approach the upcoming critical months predicted to have the highest rate of exposure to the H1N1 strain:

  1. Make a point of knowing and understanding your institution’s plan for preventing the spread of H1N1 and how the institution will respond if there is an outbreak.
  2.  Regularly check college websites for updated information and instructions on the H1N1 virus.
  3.  Regularly wash hands during the day and have a supply of personal Purell soap dispensers readily available.
  4.  Once the vaccine becomes available, insure that you and your circle of friends receive your vaccination.
  5. Strictly adhere to communications and directions provided by the college regarding isolation of students with the virus or those being tested for it.
  6. Quickly address any symptoms you may have that are similar to those described for H1N1 by visiting the campus health facility as soon as possible.
  7. Insist that your friends and dorm mates who also may have similar symptoms also visit campus health facilities to be tested and treated.
  8. If infected, do not take chances in exposing other students by socializing too soon after being infected.

The next few months could be very trying for colleges and universities around the globe.  Students on college campuses in every region can and will play an important role in the successful response of our nation to combat the spread of the H1N1 virus.

About John Enright:  John J. Enright is a retired United States Secret Service Agent in charge and now the President of Enright & Associates, Inc., a global security management and investigations firm.

 

Back to College – Safety and Security Tips

CWR Security Focus – September 2009

By John Enright

 

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

Since mid-August, college students have been returning to campus in droves across the country, eager to start classes and begin the new school year.   Returning students have much on their mind as they start the new semester after their summer breaks while new incoming freshmen are wading through an entirely new experience and are struggling to adjust to their new environment.

Concern with class schedules, dormitory assignments, roommates, campus activities and off-campus social events dominate the attention of all students as one would expect.  However, it is very important that students, especially those new to campus, spend a small amount of time learning how to remain safe while at college and begin to develop some good habits to avoid the pitfalls students have fallen into in past years that have resulted in serious consequences.  Below is our back to school list of security recommendations to give students a guide of sorts to keep safe and be prepared for the unexpected while living away from home.

 

Public Safety Departments

As students arrive on campus both the student and their parents should quickly address their personal safety while on campus by becoming familiar with the college’s Public Safety department and the resources offered on campus.  Most college websites will have a link dedicated to the Public Safety department and the policies and procedures the department will publish to assist students in accessing security services; describe emergency response procedures; list emergency telephone numbers; describe hospital- health care options and locations; and address campus safety protocols particular to the specific college you are attending..  Students should quickly become familiar with Campus Safety procedures and the assets in place on campus that will assist them in remaining safe while enjoying college life.

 

Dormitory – Apartment Emergency Procedures and Security Protocols

Becoming familiar with your new living arrangements is paramount in preparing students to deal with emergencies that may arise.  Students should immediately become familiar with fire evacuation procedures and the location of fire extinguishers on their dorm floors. The first time you need to access evacuation routes or access a fire extinguisher in an emergency should not be the first time you go through that experience.  Search out your fire evacuation options and walk the route on your way to class early in the semester so that you are familiar with it and the location where it will bring you out to.  Shortly after moving in, find the locations where the fire suppression equipment (extinguishers) is and become familiar with the instructions to operate the equipment.

Students should also be aware of the policies allowing access to their residences and strictly adhere to access control procedures set in place by the college.  Access should only be allowed to students known to dorm residents and outside doors controlled by technology should not be propped open and left unattended for convenience sake.  Never allow a stranger to enter your residence hall unless they are escorted or allowed entry by someone who knows them.  No matter how comfortable you become in your residence hall, always lock your room door and leave nothing to chance.  Your dorm mates may not be as security savvy as you are so while you are away from your room, always lock the door.

 

Safety Tips On and Off Campus

College Campuses are small communities within larger communities and students will always be exposed to some degree of criminal activity.  Students tend to feel immune to issues that plague society and will often let down their guard when traveling on and off campus late at night or at times when there are few other people around.  Assaults do happen on college campuses and often times go unreported, skewing the crime reporting statistics of campus police departments.  Further, assaults that occur just outside or in the vicinity of campus do not get reported in campus statistics.  Students need to take precautions to protect themselves when in vulnerable situations.

Walking campus late at night is one of those times and students should only walk on well lit paths that are populated by campus emergency telephones, often referred to on many campuses as the “blue phones”.  While walking back to a dorm late at night, never take a short cut in between buildings or other areas.  If you are on a well lit path, an attacker is less likely to approach you for fear of getting caught.  Always have your cell phone programmed to 911 for quick access to emergency responders.  As you approach your dorm, if possible, call your roommate or a friend inside and let them know you are coming.  This tactic is of paramount importance if you notice any strangers loitering around your dorm entrance.  The same tactics should be employed if out late at night outside of campus, possibly going home to off-campus housing.   Stay visible and travel on well lit streets.

Finally, I always get asked questions about Mace.  Mace is not a good idea.  In an emergency there is a good chance you will fumble with it and if not used properly, it can be turned on you as a weapon.  What I do recommend is investing a small amount of money ($8-$30) in a small personal alarm that can be carried on a key chain or on an ID lanyard (Google “personal alarm”). These alarms can emit a sound of up to 120 decibels and will work more effectively in warding off trouble.  I recommend the device be carried in your hand when you are walking outside late at night or if in a strange area.   If  you believe trouble is approaching or that you are being followed, do not hesitate to activate the alarm.  The loud sound alone will in most cases, deter attackers from approaching you (and the sound) and most probably, they will leave the area.

 

Identity Theft

Students should closely guard their credit cards, passwords, computer ID entry codes and identifying information i.e. dates of birth and social security numbers.  College dorms and residences are gathering points for parties and bring strangers into your dorm areas regularly.  As with any other valuables, wallets, credit cards and other important documents should be stored in a personal lock box and placed out of view so that nothing of value is in plain site.  This will prevent a quick entry / exit into your room by a thief who will look to steal whatever valuables are left out in the open.

Students should also never allow other students, even best friends to use their credit cards and pin numbers.  Friendships in college sometimes end as quickly as they start often times turning students against each other.  Also, someone with the knowledge of your credit information may decide to pull what they think is an innocent prank using your card information to order merchandise you don’t want and then having it delivered to your home.  Consider your identity information a well kept secret that is nobody’s business but your own.

 

Alcohol, Drug Abuse – Date Rape

These all go hand in hand with the college experience.  Date rape is even more common than students and parents may imagine, since most of these events go unreported on college campuses.   Alcohol and drug abuse is also common among college students and many potentially dangerous events go unreported.  Students have been seriously injured or placed in critical condition due to the lack of an appropriate response by their peers who are fail to call police or EMT’s for the fear of getting themselves in trouble.  Similarly with date rape, students have placed themselves in vulnerable situations while drinking or using drugs and their companions have failed to protect them from becoming a victim.  Finally, the large majority victims of date rape do not report the incident, which skews the statistical reporting of these incidents on campus causing less attention to be paid to this subject.  Students should be aware of the following when attending parties, social events and in all situations where drugs and alcohol are available:

 

  • Never attend a college party alone where you do not know the other students.
  • Never leave a party or event with a new acquaintance.
  • Do not visit the dorm or apartment of a first date or recent acquaintance.
  • Only drink from drinks that you have had total control and possession.
  • If a friend is extremely ill after inducing alcohol or drugs, immediately call first responders.
  • Do not leave a friend passed out in a strange dorm, apartment, or residence.
  • Do not assume that a friend is just “passed out” and just ill from drinking too much.
  • Never leave a friend to get back to campus on their own because they have met a new acquaintance.
  • If you do leave your friends to stay with a new acquaintance, make sure someone knows where you are going and if you will be staying.
  • Make a pact among your friends to watch out for each other when at parties and follow these tips to ensure that everyone remains safe.

 

Campus Violence

Over the past ten years we have had regular incidents of violence on campus, culminating with the shootings at Virginia Tech.  These incidents although seemingly low in probability, continue to occur regularly and we cannot just think that they will not happen to us.  In most of the incidents reported on over the years, it was evident that the attackers were known to their peers and teachers prior to the attacks as being troubled or for making statements that could be considered threatening and of a violent nature.  Often time’s students have reported after the attacks that they were intimidated by the attacker and felt threatened.   Even still, the attacker and his behavior went  unreported and the attacks occurred.

The advice here is simple.  If you are troubled by the behavior of a student, you should always report the behavior to someone in authority on campus.  Unfortunately, many campuses do not have a procedure for this kind of report and it is unclear who would be the most appropriate department to report it to.  I always suggest that if there is a clear threat of violence, the information should be reported to Campus Public Safety.  However, if the behavior is troubling but not directly threatening, the information can be reported to the Campus Health Clinic or the Office of Dean of Students.   More often than not, this type of behavior is recurring and could be evidence of a student moving on a path to commit a violent attack.

This is also a time when you may want to include your parents in your observations and have them also contact the school with your concerns.  What we have found in other incidents is that reports have been made and they have either not been acted upon or the institution was unsure how to manage the report.

 

About John Enright:  John J. Enright is a retired United States Secret Service Agent in charge and now the President of Enright & Associates, Inc., a global security management and investigations firm.

Identity Theft and College Students: How to Protect Your Identity

CWR Security Focus – May 2009

By John Enright

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

Little thought is given by college students to the importance of protecting their personal information from identity thieves.   Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes around the globe and affects just about every sector of our society. Identity thieves use the personal information of others to apply for credit cards, bank loans and mortgages to defraud financial institutions, businesses and individuals of billions of dollars each year around the world.  In recent years we have witnessed the theft of thousands of innocent victim’s personal information from computer records of companies like TJ Maxx and other large brand name stores.   More prevalent however, is the theft of an individual’s identity from small time criminals who prey on inexperienced and novice card holders who for the first time are carrying and using credit and debit cards while away from home at college.

Hundreds to thousands of identity thieves live and prey in every region of the world and are as much of a factor in identity theft as the sophisticated hackers who tapped into the TJ Maxx network and stole 40,000+ customer identities.  Before they even reach college, future students are barraged with credit card offerings to help them ease into college life.  Parents are applying for cards for their children and most students today in addition to a credit card, now have debit cards to conduct their finances while away at school.  The problem however lies in the fact that students often do not understand the danger of identity theft and the lengths thieves will go to steal their identity.  Compounding this problem is the fact that colleges themselves have had their computer data bases, containing student’s personal information, hacked into by sophisticated thieves as was done to TJ Maxx.  Social networking sites on the internet and email usage by unsuspecting users have also created additional vulnerabilities for thieves to exploit.

Educating college students on the dangers of identity theft and providing them with the tools to protect their identities will empower students to take responsibility for safeguarding their personal information.  As we have talked about in previous articles, proactive, educated and aware students can take responsibility for their own safety and create a safer environment to enjoy college life.  This also applies to protecting students from identity theft and illegal access of their financial accounts.  The biggest obstacle preventing students from taking the necessary precautions with their information is the feeling of comfort and safety students have living away at college. College life invites many strangers into a student’s life at house parties, college gatherings and other events.  Students have a tendency to leave their money, wallets and other valuables on desks and dressers in their dorm rooms. This becomes problematic during dorm parties or even when they just leave the residence for a short period to exercise or lounge outside on the quad.  These events offer thieves excellent opportunities to enter a dorm room and access credit card information from their wallets. In short, student’s habits, college parties and other situations offer ample opportunities for strangers to enter college residences and steal personal identity information.

Students should move into their college residences with a “lock box” or safe that can be secreted away in their room and used regularly to secure valuables, prescription medications and important documents.   Students should not share their combination, key or box location with any other students including their roommates.  Remember your information is personal and even your closest friends do not have a need to know where your valuables are or how to access them.   Students who use their credit and debit cards regularly for purchases by phone or online should guard against others hearing, seeing or accessing their card numbers, expiration dates, security codes and passwords.  Again, this is your personal business and no one else has a need to know it.

Students should not allow others to use their cards even if they are reimbursed with cash.  This practice allows others to have access to your card numbers, expiration dates and security codes. College pranks have also been known to occur where students have come across another’s credit card and then use it to make random purchases as a prank, albeit a serious one.  Of important note to mention here is that just because your credit and debit cards are still in your possession doesn’t mean your information is secure.  Thieves can access all of your information to include date of birth, social security numbers and credit card numbers with security codes by going through your possessions and just writing down your information when you are not in your room.  Unlike if your card was actually stolen, you will never know that your information was accessed until the unauthorized purchases appear on the following month’s bill.

College students can also fall victim to email “phishing schemes” if they are not prudent in responding to email offerings.  Thieves in the cyber world will search continually for potential victims using email and forward attractive but bogus offers trying to entice the innocent party to reveal their personal identity information.  As a rule, legitimate financial institutions and businesses would never request your information in this manner and email users should never provide personal information over the internet unless they are certain of the requestor.  In most instances financial institutions that you deal with will already have your information and will not have a need to be requesting it from you.   Similar rules apply for telephone calls from unknown organizations or institutions who request personal information over the phone. Never provide your information over the telephone for any offering.

Many colleges offer services and information regarding identity theft and IT security that can assist students in becoming better educated and aware of this crime that has no boundaries.   Students should take advantage of the free advice offered by their colleges and protect themselves from being the next victim of an identity thief.

About  John Enright:  John J. Enright is a retired United States Secret Service Agent in charge and now the President of Enright & Associates, Inc., a global security management and investigations firm.

Personal Safety on College Campuses: A Student’s Responsibility

CWR Security Focus – March 2009

By John Enright

 

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

This is my first article on safety and security for The College World Reporter and I look forward to providing our readers with information, strategies and resources that will assist in creating a safe and secure environment for students both on and off campus.  This column, although directed mainly at the student population, will also at times provide strategies that college administrators can consider for enhancing safety and security on their campuses.

Students often times view their college environment as a safe cocoon removed from the unpleasant happenings of mainstream society.  Who can blame them?  Colleges across the country strive to create a warm and welcoming environment for both current and prospective students who may be considering enrollment at their institutions.  Competition among schools for new students is fierce and college administrators have become increasingly pro-active in making their campuses appear safe and appealing to visiting students and families.

Students come to college thinking that nothing bad will happen because they are……..at college!  Because of this, students often times let down their guard and ignore their instincts when facing potentially dangerous situations.  Whether walking to their dorm or visiting another part of the campus late at night on a quiet campus, students find themselves in a much different environment than the one they experienced going to class during the day.  Increasingly over the past few years, students have been assaulted by fellow students and outsiders alike on campus because they made it easy for their attackers to confront them without being noticed.

Colleges across the country form communities similar to the cities and towns that surround them.  In effect a college campus is just like any other city or town attracting both the good and bad that our society has to offer.  The campus is often a destination for the “locals” and the surrounding towns often times provide both a cultural attraction and a party location for the college students.

Students today need to become more aware of their surroundings and realize that crime does occur on college campuses as well as in the cities and towns that are part of their college community.  In addition, crimes are more likely to occur when the students least expect it.  Students need to consider that walking across a quiet college campus late at night is a different environment than the one that they traveled in during the day when class was in session.  While traveling across a campus in the evening, students can be placed in potentially dangerous situations, exposing themselves to attackers who have come onto campus to take advantage of both the darkness and quiet that develops as the evening grows late.  Similar circumstances develop at the same time when students are traveling off campus in the cities and towns that are located in close proximity to the college.

When walking alone at night on campus, students should only travel on well lit walking paths designed so that they are visible to others and safe from attackers who may be deterred by the well lit conditions.  Further, while traveling these paths, students also need to be aware of the campus safety and security telephone boxes that are strategically placed and easily identified around campus for emergency notifications.  Knowing where the emergency phones are on campus before an emergency occurs will provide a student with critical extra seconds in getting to the closest phone and notifying campus police of an emergency.  The ability to quickly access an emergency telephone to call campus security may act as a deterrent and in fact save a student from an imminent confrontation with an attacker.

Having a casual conversation on a cell phone during a late night walk could distract a student from paying attention to their surroundings and provide an advantage to an attacker by increasing his element of surprise.  Students should move cautiously and briskly from location to location when traveling outside late at night and continue to be vigilant in monitoring their surroundings.  Students should also have their cell phones at the ready and pre-programmed to a quick dial emergency number such as 911 so that a call can be placed in seconds if a situation calls for it and campus emergency phones are not available.  Merely dialing the phone when confronted by an attacker will alert a 911 operator that you are in danger and possibly provide a location so that police can be dispatched immediately to you.  Always attempt to keep the open line to 911 activated.

If a student is being followed (stalked) on campus, they should continue to walk on a well lit path, attempt to alert security or friends by calling on your cell phone and move to the nearest populated area of the campus.  For instance, if the student knows that a certain cafeteria, pub or student activity is open and located nearby, they should move to that location as quickly as possible while also maintaining their route on a well lit path.  To try and get to a safe location quicker by cutting across a more remote section of campus could actually put a student in more danger than they were initially.

At all times when going from one location to another late at night, students should make sure no one is lurking in an alley, behind bushes or around the corner from the entrance to the building they are about to enter.  If a student does see something suspicious and are not sure who or what it is, they should stay on the well lit walking path they have been traveling, move to a secondary location and alert security of the situation when it is safe to do so.

As a habit, students should always try and call someone just before they arrive at their destination and keep them on an open line to their cell phone until they are safely inside the building.  Roommates and house mates should have a routine of calling to each other when they are a minute or two away so that someone can be at the entrance door to provide an escort into the dormitory.  If no one is going to be in your dorm, always try and use the college shuttle service or security escort services that are available at most colleges for students traveling the campus at night.  These services are provided to keep students safe and should be used as often as possible during the evening hours.

These same strategies should be applied when traveling off campus to visit friends living in off-campus housing or at other locations.  Although off-campus, students often times forget that they are not within the confines of a safer campus environment and travel through surrounding cities and towns as if they were an extension of campus life.  Students both unfamiliar and unsuspecting of their environment, place themselves at risk when taking their safety for granted in these situations.

When traveling off-campus, some changes in travel planning will have to be made, but the concept remains the same.  Know your environment, be prepared and most importantly, remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings.  There will not be the campus emergency phones available so students will have to remember to travel with their cell phones easily accessible for any emergency.  Planning your trip, having friends meet you when you arrive and staying alert in your surroundings should assist a student in staying safe when traveling off campus.  The most vulnerable locations both on campus and off are outside building entrances near large shrubs, parked cars and around the corner of building walls as well as inside building lobbies where attackers may lurk in stairwells and corners.  Some simple planning can defeat these vulnerabilities and keep a student safe whether on campus or off.

I am often asked by students about carrying mace, pepper spray and other weapons to defeat an attack.  I do not recommend the use of these devices by college students simply because an attacker may be able to wrestle the weapon from the student and use it against them.

However there is another option that may provide a more agreeable outcome.  The option I would propose for all students is to purchase a “personal defense alarm” that can be carried in a purse, worn around the neck on a lanyard with a dorm key or used as a key chain carried in your pocket.  These devices can be found on the Internet when searched under “personal defense alarm” and purchased for under $10.  When the alarms are activated, they produce a deafening sound upwards in some cases of 120 decibels and more often than not will cause an attacker to panic and then flee as well as alert bystanders in the area for the alarm location.  The device works well because it is easily carried, requires no training, cannot be used against the student to cause further injury and provides a simple last second option to deter an attacker from moving any closer to them, quite possibly causing him to retreat.

College life is intended to be rewarding, enriching and carefree.  In today’s world this kind of experience is still attainable but students need to take some responsibility to insure that they are both careful and practical when moving about their college environment in our modern day world.

About John Enright:  John J. Enright is a retired United States Secret Service Agent in charge and now the President of Enright & Associates, Inc., a global security management and investigations firm.

 

Targeted Violence on College Campuses: Student’s Can Play a Role in Prevention

CWR Security Focus – April 2009

By John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

John Enright, Former U.S. Secret Service Agent

In April of 2007, our nation was again confronted with a catastrophic school shooting attack, this time on a college campus at Virginia Tech.  The student-gunman’s rampage resulted in the death of 32 students and teachers and injuries to countless others.   The rampage ended only when the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, took his own life.

Before the Virginia Tech attacks and during the previous nine years we have been regularly confronted with similar attacks, mostly in high school buildings but with an increasing number occurring on college campuses.   In September of 2008, a college student in Finland shot and killed 9 students on a local campus after being interviewed the evening before by local police because of an internet video he produced espousing and threatening violence.

This past month during a four day period, we witnessed the murder of a minister in Illinois on a Sunday morning while giving a sermon and two days later an Alabama man went on a rampage in his community killing 10 innocent victims and wounding several others.  Finally, a day later in a small town in Germany a former 17 year old student returned to his high school and murdered 15 innocent victims. In the Illinois church, the shooting stopped because of a malfunctioning weapon and in Alabama and Germany the incidents ended only when the attackers took their own lives.

The point of raising these recent attacks is that we cannot anymore, be so secure in our thinking that this type of incident could not happen in our community or in the case of our readers, on their college campuses.   Attacks of this nature over the past 10 years have been committed by predominantly young male adults in an age range of 15-21 years.  Many of these attacks, although without specific targeted victims, are still considered to be acts of targeted violence as attackers have taken aim at specific groups within a community.  Their reasoning has ranged from exacting some measure of revenge, gaining satisfaction for the grief their actions cause or as a final desperate act to call attention to their own suffering.  The attacks are often successful due to significant planning on the part of the attacker and are usually preceded by the attacker’s odd behavior, threatening statements and expressed interest in different forms of violence.  In most cases, students, peers and teachers alike were aware of the attacker’s unusual behavior and often their interest in violence.

After the Columbine attacks in 1998, a local law enforcement official commenting in frustration to the media shortly after the attacks asked the question of no one in particular, “Didn’t anyone see this coming”?  My point here is that in many of these attacks over the past 10 years, we may have in fact seen “something coming” but just did not know how to deal with it.  In the case of Virginia Tech and more recently Finland, the troubled students were confronted but not in such a way to prevent the attacks.  Virginia Tech is the classic example where Cho’s behavior over the course of 1½ years was so troubling that both teachers and students felt uncomfortable being in his presence in or out of class.  Police in Finland this past September were so troubled by the attacker’s web video that they questioned him the evening before but without having a crime to charge him with, released him from their custody.

Awareness, recognition and reporting of troubling student behavior are the responsibility of all members of a community whether that community is a college campus or a small town in Alabama.  However a more specific responsibility exists for institutions to understand the potential for this kind of violent attack and then establish a process to determine if a troubled individual may be on a path to commit a violent attack.  Since Columbine and Virginia Tech, institutions have responded with many significant improvements in crisis preparedness and security to respond effectively to an attack.  However, what is still lacking in many institutions is a process to determine if an attack is actually being planned.  “Lockdown” procedures and a quick police response were credited with saving lives in the German HS attack weeks ago, however 15 lives were still lost.

College life often times places students in a somewhat sheltered environment shielding them from the realities and dangers that plague society.  Students however must learn to stay alert and consider the actions of their peers around them when a statement or behavior causes a moment of concern or a continued awareness of a student and their troubling behavior.  Students and teachers at Virginia Tech struggled as did police in Finland to deal with these students when the troubling behavior came to their attention.  In Germany, the attacker told another student on a chat line the previous evening of his intentions for the next day and to watch the news to witness him become famous. As you can see in these cases, the attackers either exhibited troubling behavior to cause a response or they actually told someone of their intentions.

Targeted violence on college campuses is an issue that must be addressed collaboratively by many systems.   Some institutions have instituted formal processes to deal with troubled students while others have not been so aggressive. In the end though, students themselves need to be keenly aware of their peers and the behaviors they exhibit that might indicate a student is on a path to commit an act of violence.   Students should not have to be concerned with the process but only know they have an outlet to report troubling behavior and that it will be handled appropriately.  It is the responsibility of the institution to be in a position to easily access a student’s concerns and insure that a student report does not fall into a “black hole” of sorts.

The institution must evaluate the information through a collaborative process that allows for an appropriate inquiry concerning a potentially dangerous student.  This process or inquiry should involve all of the systems that the student may have had contact with in the recent past.  This will insure that all of the information regarding the student is accessed and considered in the evaluation process. At a minimum, the following systems should be considered for information gathering during an evaluation: Student services, academic departments, individual teachers, health services, residential life, peers, family members, campus and local police.  In the ideal process, a concerned student should be able to approach any one of these systems with information about another student and then have their concerns addressed promptly with all of the other systems so that an appropriate inquiry and evaluation take place.

Upon entering college, students are for the first time in their lives given the responsibility for their own safety.  If institutions are going to ask students to take an active role in their personal safety, then policies, procedures and processes must be easily recognized and accessed by the student population. With this in mind, institutions have a responsibility to deliver a coordinated and collaborative safety program that involves continued, robust security education and awareness programs as well as a defined process to manage threatening behavior that may pose a danger to the campus community.  Safety and security is no longer just a singular role and responsibility of one campus system. In today’s world, post Columbine, 9/11 and Virginia Tech, campus safety is a diverse and complex responsibility that falls within many systems on campus. This responsibility also falls squarely into the hands of college students everywhere who must maintain a healthy awareness of security and those situations that may threaten their campus community.

About John Enright:  John J. Enright is a retired United States Secret Service Agent in charge and now the President of Enright & Associates, Inc., a global security management and investigations firm.