CSUN re-evaluates public safety after Virginia Tech shootings

Kari Thumlert

CSUN’s Campus Safety Department has been reviewing its emergency procedure in the wake of last week’s Virginia Tech shooting.

The campus is waiting to revise their emergency plans since the tragedy at VPI. Glavin said that revising will be done after the independent panel releases its report by the several law enforcement experts appointed by Virginia Governor Tom Kaine to evaluate whether school officials reacted appropriately to the murder spree.

“(Once) all the facts come out, then there will be lessons learned,” Chief of Police Anne Glavin said. “At that time we can review our procedures and then incorporate new changes. These reports are very helpful in helping us to prepare better.

“After the Hurricane Katrina final panel report came out we increased our emergency supplies from 3 to 5 days (to) 8 to 10 days,” she said.

In the meantime CSUN’s DPS is working on improving in two areas. The first is developing a new communication system that will allow for rapid notification to faculty, staff and students in the event of an emergency.

“Connect-it will send an e-mail and telephone message to everyone, notifying them what to do,” Glavin said. It is still in the developing process, but we could use it now if we have to.”

The other area that is being addressed since the VPI shootings is identifying someone who may be a “person of concern.”

“There is no one profile of an active shooter,” Glavin said. “But there are some signs that may indicate that someone is having difficulties.”

She said red flags may be raised for a couple of reasons; if someone’s starts exhibiting odd behavior, they are really troubled and not themselves, acting in someway that they cannot contain themselves or they are talking about guns and hurting themselves or others obsessively.

With nearly 34,000 students enrolled and 100 buildings spread across 356 acres, it’s hard to have eyes everywhere and it is critical that faculty, staff and students do their part to help campus authorities keep tabs on what is going on, Glavin said.

“CSUN is a city unto itself,” Glavin said, urging that each department and college adopt their own Emergency Action Plans and added “18 departments have their EAPs in place” out of 56 academic departments.

“It is (important) that we are prepared for anything and we have worked very hard to be inclusive,” Glavin said at a press conference in her office on April 18. “If (the person in charge of emergency response) are not sure how to do it, they can always call us, we’ll help them, we can provide a template.”

Depending on what type of emergency that may occur the Department of Public Safety has a range of Emergency Operations Plans. The EOPs are designed to provide the university with a framework to respond to and recover from a wide variety of potential hazards, including natural disasters, pandemic illnesses and other emergency situations.

The DPS is prepared for anything, we are even prepared for an airline crash,” Glavin said. “Having these plans allows us respond quickly and efficiently to any situation that may arise.”

Glavin said she is frustrated because “despite all of our efforts” the DPS does to advertise and inform the campus community about what to do in an emergency or where to find the plans, most people do not know where or what they are.

“These are the types of incidents that should be reported to us,” Glavin said. “This goes for everyone (The person who may need help) occasionally can be a faculty or staff member.”

When a report is made someone from the DPS will talk to them and try to get to the root of the problem. If that doesn’t work, Glavin said investigators then talk to professors, roommates, neighbors, other students and family to find out if something has happened that has caused the sudden change in behavior.

After they make an assessment then they decide if this person needs outside help.

“Sometimes we can have them hospitalized against their will,” she said.

Glavin said that the department was recently notified about someone who was having some difficulties, and because of the report, there is one person who is now being monitored.

“Faculty and her staff are taking measures now to ensure that this person has a support system that can implemented when the person returns to campus,” she said.

She added, “We would do this for anyone who fit into this category.”

Some professors have taken action when they have come across a student who seemed to be of concern.

“I once had a beginning screenwriting student whose script described the bombing of the World Trade Center,” said CSUN film professor Alexis Krasilovsky.

“It wasn’t the script itself so much as the accompanying drawings of guns that he explained would be used in the take-over, that weren’t part of the assignment: The student’s obsession with the topic spilled way beyond screenwriting.

“I referred him to the Counseling Center, and was quite relieved when he agreed to go,” she said.

Katharine Haake, creative writing director at CSUN, has had a few students who she has referred for outside help.

“I’ve called the counseling center directly for students; I’ve offered to walk them over myself; I’ve followed up to make sure they have gone,” Haake said. “And I’ve alerted others to possible problems.”

Haake recalled one student in particular and said, “(It wasn’t so much the writing) as it was my personal and classroom interactions with the student.”

When these types of actions are taken, it keeps the campus environment safe for the person who may potentially harm themselves or others, Glavin said.

Referring to the VPI tragedy, Glavin said, “These incidents do have a silver lining as everyone is prompted into action and plans better for a situation that may occur on campus.”

Students who want to know if their college or department has completed their plans or want to be involved can check with the chair or the person designated to handle emergencies, Glavin added.