University Business - March 2008 - (Page 35)

HUMAN RESOURCES Safe and Sound The role of HR in enhancing campus safety By Carol Patton O NE OF THE EARLIEST IN cidents of deadly campus violence happened on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman opened fire from the Texas Tower at The University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and injuring 31 others. Since then, there have been more than 200 deaths from murders, suicides, or shootings on college and university campuses nationwide. Until 2000, such incidents have occurred usually no more than once a year and sometimes every other year. But since the new millennium, the number of annual episodes has soared. There were three in 2000, four in 2001, 10 in 2002 and 2004, three in 2006, and four last year. News reports often revealed missed or ignored warning signs by school counselors, faculty, or students, making people wonder if anyone can ever be safe at what used to be one of the safest places in town. Safety is certainly not just the responsibility of campus security or police anymore. This is one area where human resources staff need to cross professional boundaries and work side by side with other departments, including campus security. Whether serving on a committee that identifies troubled individuals or coordinating employee safety workshops, HR leaders and staff need to get involved in building a culture of awareness and preparedness. But some schools are flunking. Vincent Bove, a security educator in Short Hills, N.J., has worked with more than 100 higher ed institutions across the country. He says some IHEs aren’t getting this message and have short-term memories, leaving security-related issues exclusively to campus freshman at Saint Peter’s College (N.J.). “If we’re going to be serious about making our college campuses safe, then we have the authority to require that our students are involved in the process,” says Bove. “Training must be ongoing, include students, and be done with a real sense of urgency, vigilance, and collaboration.” HOLISTIC APPROACH Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Princeton University formed an emergency preparedness task force that included HR. The vice president of HR is still a member of the team’s senior level policy subcommittee that deals with emergency management, says Steven Healy, director of public safety at the university, which supports approximately 5,200 employees and more than 7,000 students. Not only does HR’s involvement ensure that personnel issues are being considered—such as how employees will continue to be paid during emergencies—but it’s also a symbol of the institution’s commitment, from the top level down, to a comprehensive approach on safety and security, adds Healy, who is also the immediate past president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators ( But not all campus cultures or even HR professionals embrace this holistic approach. Instead of advocating for a more inclusive role, they can become passive observers, believing campus safety and security is someone else’s job. This may not Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer who specializes in covering HR topics. HR’s involvement is a symbol of commitment to a comprehensive approach on safety and security. security or police. Bad idea. “Violence is continuing to escalate and we’re not taking it seriously enough,” Bove says. “My experience is that HR is not at all involved as they should be. HR must be part of the solution.” Many schools offer minimal staff training as a legal Band-Aid to protect themselves from potential lawsuits. However, much more is needed. For instance, Bove says IHEs must establish a threat assessment team that includes representatives from HR and other departments. Such a team would evaluate and respond to all red flags in order to prevent, mitigate, or minimize potential problems. Training must also be ongoing and comprehensive for employees and students— not a once-a-year piecemeal program. For example, Bove conducts mandatory security awareness workshops for every incoming March 2008 | 35

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - March 2008

University Business - March 2008
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Editor's Note
Stats Watch
Sense of Place
EduComm Insert
Financial Aid
Money Matters
Human Resources
Higher One Insert
Community College
Cadets on Campus
Keeping an Eye on the Network
Sizing Up Second Life
Endowment Management
What's New
Calendar of Events
End Note

University Business - March 2008