Campus’ critical incident task force issues its report

On May 7, 2007, in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the Roanoke College cabinet appointed a task force to conduct a review of the College's response plan regarding critical campus incidents. The task force members, chaired by Tom Turner, director of campus safety, include Bob Hines, associate dean for student life; Tess Blethyn, assistant dean, residence life; Dr. James Dalton, vice president of information technology; Teresa Gereaux, director of public relations; Mark Noftsinger, vice president of business affairs; Dr. Rhonda Ryan, staff counselor; Leah Russell, associate dean/registrar; Dr. Gail Steehler, professor of chemistry, and Paul Millard, a rising junior English major. Graduate student intern Nicole Lenez '05 served as recorder. The appointed goal of the task force was to complete its review and make recommendations to cabinet by midsummer to allow time to implement any necessary changes in a timely fashion.

 

The task force met on May 9, 16, 23, 30 and June 6 and 20. At each meeting, a specific topic related to the areas of Risk Reduction / Prevention and Preparedness / Response was reviewed and discussed.

 

 

Based on this review, the task force developed a set of recommendations and set a response/action date of January 2008. The task force will reconvene in September 2007 and January 2008 to review progress towards these recommendations. In addition, the task force will review the report of Governor Kaine's Virginia Tech Review Panel.

 

 

A. Communications

 

The task force concludes that the college would benefit from an enhanced ability to quickly and effectively communicate with members of the college community during times of emergency or crisis. Therefore, the college will implement an emergency communication system. The college will make information available (on the web and in printed materials) regarding the college's emergency response plans and recommendations for actions to be taken by the campus community in the event of an emergency.

 

 

The task force found that Roanoke College has an effective process for identifying students in emotional distress and will continue to enhance the student information system as additional needs are identified. Early identification of students who may be at academic or emotional risk, as well as subsequent communication to appropriate offices, will aid with enrollment management, in general, and, more specifically, may improve retention.

 

 

B. Prevention Education and Awareness

 

The task force agrees that prevention of critical incidents on college campuses is very important and that education and awareness of and by the community is essential to that task. Therefore, the task force recommends increased prevention education and awareness.

 

 

C. Procedures and Policies for Students in Emotional Distress

The task force reviewed the policies and procedures currently in place at Roanoke College regarding response and service to students in emotional distress, as well as follow-up on withdrawals for emotional reasons. One of the most effective safety practices at Roanoke is regular meetings to discuss students who appear to be having difficulties. As a result of these meetings, troubled students are connected to appropriate support offices. Resources to students in need are provided by Health Services, the College Counseling center, the Goode-Pasfield Center for Learning and Teaching or through professional resources in the Roanoke Valley.

 

 

The task force concludes that these policies and procedures are sound and adequately meet current needs. However, should the number of students requiring assistance increase, an appropriate response in staffing will be necessary. A plan will be developed to provide ongoing assessment of the utilization of campus counseling services.

 

 

D. Response Preparedness

 

The task force reviewed institutional preparedness for critical campus incidents. In the event of a critical incident involving campus violence (i.e., an active shooter), the Salem Police Department is the primary responding agency to assist the Campus Safety Office and college administration in handling the crisis.

 

 

The Office of Campus Safety provides 24-hour security services to the campus seven days a week. Safety officers are armed conservators of the peace who are trained at the police academy and have arrest authority on the college campus. Campus Safety officers receive law enforcement training at the Cardinal Criminal Justice Regional Academy and comply with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services training standards.

 

 

Campus Safety utilizes a "Community Policing" model that involves safety officers patrolling on foot and bicycles so they have on-going, personal contact with members of the campus community. This approach includes walking through residence halls and academic buildings.

 

The college will educate the campus community to the appropriate actions to take in the very early stages of a crisis. In addition, the Campus Safety Office is prepared to take appropriate action to protect life until support from emergency service agencies arrives.

 

 

E. Physical Security of Campus Environment

Roanoke's residence halls are locked 24 hours per day, and this practice will continue. In addition, the college will continue to expand the number of buildings controlled by a card access entry system and review security standards and their applicability to the college physical plant as new standards and expectations emerge.

 

 

 

F. College Policies

 

All weapons are banned. Current college policies, including restrictions on the carrying of weapons on campus and limiting the number of students allowed to stay in residence halls during calendar breaks and other times when halls are officially closed, were developed for the safety of the students. The college will maintain the current policies.