Monday morning’s shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, the deadliest such incident in American history, has forced colleges and universities around the country, including the University of Miami, to reevaluate on-campus security.
Once news broke of Monday’s events, UM’s Police Department and administrators reacted within hours. President Donna E. Shalala sent out a statement on Monday afternoon to all students concerning the Virginia Tech tragedy and spoke of a crisis plan, while David A. Rivero, director of public safety, increased police presence in order to avert a possible copycat incident.
“We immediately communicated with everybody that’s on our emergency response plan so that everybody knew what was happening,” Rivero said. “We increased our force by doubling the amount of cops, and we hired extra security guards to give students, faculty and UM employees an extra sense of safety.”
Rivero traveled to Tallahassee on Monday for a meeting with all police chiefs from the ACC schools to discuss security concerns and plans at the other universities.
Officers from the Coral Gables Police Department have also been hired to patrol campus.
Three weeks ago, Rivero met with SG President Danny Carvajal and decided to create the University of Miami Police Advisory Board. Rivero said the advisory board would revolve around student participation to offer an alternate perspectives on possible security vulnerabilities.
Carvajal appointed Matthew Shpiner, vice president of operations for the ‘Canes Emergency Response (a organization comprised of students who assist the university in times of disaster preparation and recovery), as the chair of the University of Miami Police Advisory Board.
Shpiner plans to have an official meeting this week to discuss the board’s goals and plan a response to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Alan Fish, the vice president of Business Services, said the university is adequately prepared for a similar emergency on campus, based on the Emergency Preparedness Plan.
“We’ve had a crisis management plan since the late ’80s, which is constantly evolving every year as issues like [Virginia Tech] come up or technology changes,” he said.
Fish also told The Miami Hurricane the crisis plan includes a small emergency response team that includes a few “key” administrators, such as Shalala and Provost Thomas LeBlanc, who can meet on a moments notice. After the emergency response team meets, decisions are relayed to the crisis decision team, which includes approximately 100 people who carry out the smaller team’s desired plan.
The larger crisis decision team is made up of representatives from 57 major areas of the university, such as the various colleges,, medical campus, Department of Public Safety, the Department of Residence Halls and Auxiliary Services.
The decision team last met during hurricane season to decide a course of action, which included sending an e-mail notification to students that classes were cancelled as a result of Hurricane Ernesto. Fish said a similar e-mail notification system would be used to warn students in the case of other types of threats.
Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, and Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said they encourage all students to update their cell phone numbers at myum.miami.edu so the university is able to send out voicemails and text messages to all students in the case of a crisis.
Currently only 4,600 of roughly 15,670 students have updated their cell phone numbers.
In 1996, Hurricane linebacker Marlin Barnes was beaten to death in his on-campus apartment. Whitely, who was the director of Student Life at the time, said UM increased security immediately after that incident and followed the crisis plan UM had at the time. She noted the emergency plan UM uses now has been drastically updated since then, but whether a crisis is large or small, the decision team follows the same guidelines.
Shalala also noted in her statement that the Rosentiel and medical campuses also have emergency response procedures.
Annie Reisewitz of Media Relations said RSMAS has security during operating hours and no unauthorized persons are allowed on campus. Whitely also noted that both the RSMAS and medical campuses have a comprehensive plan that follows the Disaster Preparation and Recovery Plan on UM’s website.
Because most college campuses in the United States are sprawling by design with large open areas and free access to buildings that house classrooms, the use of unconventional security devices has been utilized by universities such as John Hopkins and Princeton.
Johns Hopkins uses a “smart” video camera technology that employs computer algorithms to detect suspicious actions such as a person climbing a fence or loitering around a window. The university currently has 101 “smart” cameras installed on the main campus.
At Princeton, professors and university officials are trained to spot depression and are told to contact mental health services when a student may need help. Also, after Columbine, many U.S. high schools installed metal detectors, though colleges and universities did not follow suit.
Fish said UM is not planning to add security measures such as metal detectors or “smart” cameras, but he noted the university’s crisis team does convene annually to have an “awareness meeting” to discuss issues that may impact the crisis plan.
Furthermore, Arias emphasized that during times of crisis the Department of Public Safety, located in the Flipse Building, is staffed around-the-clock by members of the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Communications, who may be reached via the Hurricane Hotline at 305-284-5151.
“We constantly update the hotline and the website,” Arias said. He added that in times of crisis, such as hurricanes, “We even sleep at [the Department of] Public Safety to be available for students and parents in case they have any questions.”
More information about UM’s emergency preparedness may be found at www.miami.edu/prepare.
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s unfortunate that things like that happen in America.”
Jeff Sandler, sophomore
“Media is responsible for many of the things that happen in society.”
Mike Krohmaly, junior
“It’s just terrible, and extremely sad. I was going through the T.V stations and saw what was going on and felt shocked. A few hours later Dr. Phil and Jack Thompson were blaming video games for the massacre. I felt angry and disappointed that they were using the shootings to push their political agendas.”
Gino Felizzola, junior
“What is it in this culture that makes people crazy?”
Paola Solano, junior
“It took me by surprise and it reminded me that this type of situation can happen in any college, including the University of Miami .”
Aaron Cowan, senior
“It is very sad that we see people’s faces but we cannot truly see their inner feelings and thoughts.”
Mary Corpas, sophomore
“It is very sad that so many people had to die. However, a situation like that can’t always be prevented right away. The school did what they thought was the right decision, there was no way then to know that the second shooting would happened after the fist one.”
Simone Brudere, freshman
*Compiled by Natalia Vanegas