Locked in the library, Millersville University senior Jackie Geiger felt safe on the third floor, where life was fairly quiet compared to the commotion elsewhere on campus.
The campus lockdown on April 1 is still fresh in the minds of many on MU’s campus, which brings no surprise to the numerous changes made for this school year.
Janet Kaskos, director of Communications, knows better than anyone the potential problems when a crisis occurs and the community is not ready with an adequate response.
“We made changes to our internal communications system after the basketball riot two years ago. I felt on April 1 those changes were implemented and effective,” said Kaskos.
As the campus implements three new security programs this fall, Kaskos assures the improvements are for the better.
The systems being referred to, are the siren alert system, electronic control and TAT@MU; all of which were effective as of September 2008.
The alert system means the addition of several call boxes around MU’s campus, which may be pushed to contact police in the case of an emergency. Previously, there were three of these boxes on campus; more were added so that, hopefully, wherever a person is on campus, they are in view of a call box.
A speaker alert system has been installed on various buildings around the campus to assure that students outside are able to quickly and effectively be alerted to danger.
Due to the difficulty connecting online and making cell phone calls on April 1, Verizon Wireless has erected two more towers in Millersville for faster, more accommodating service, and the university will implement an internet function which allows a master button to shut down web access and display only important messages during times of crisis.
The Threat Assessment Team, TAT, is a group of MU staff members that represent various departments on campus, such as the director of safety and environmental health and the chief of university police.
Their job is to quickly “assist in addressing threatening behaviors that potentially impede their own or others’ ability to function successfully or safely.” TAT is asking students to report any threatening or stressful situation they encounter from the campus community to them directly.
The MU community is asked to carry credit-card size handouts in their wallet for easy reference in case of an emergency. It is also recommended that students save the emergency phone number, 717-871-3911, in their cell phone contact list.
“If students don’t use these resources…then what? It is vital that we are schooled and re-schooled in using these practices,” says Geiger, who is taking all of these changes with a grain of salt. Geiger, like many, understand the difficulty in asking a college community to carry around a folded paper on campus safety.
“[TAT] is not limited to physical threats,” says Kaskos. “If students are being bullied or objectified, stalked or bothered, we want to know about it.”
In this context, it seems TAT serves as “telling the teacher” of the college world.
While being cautious and intervening is justified, students are not looking to be babysat.
“I think students need to learn to deal with their own problems. We are here to learn and prepare for the real world. In the real world you don’t get to call TAT when you’re being bullied in your English class,” said senior Sean Betesh.
It seems that while these programs are all productive in theory, it is those that do not require output by the campus community that will be most successful.
“If I’m walking down the street and [the building] screams at me to go inside, I’ll listen,” said Betesh. “But good luck getting me to carry around [an info packet] on it. I just don’t see that being a convenient thing to lug around.”
TAT sent out a campus email detailing the new security systems and procedures on campus; however, very few students took the time to read the email. Many are tired of hearing about threats and safety on campus.
“I literally got locked in the library the other day,” said senior Derek Wilsey. “Maybe we should focus on campus employees paying more attention to their job and how many people are signed up for alert/text messages.”
It seems, for now at least, students are not giving their safety on campus daily thought. This hopefully means the efforts by the university are working effectively.