ASU needs better tools to track and assess students’ behavior and to upgrade its emergency notification system for when worst-case scenarios become real, a university committee recommends.
Those are among 46 recommendations in a draft report written by an Arizona State University committee that studied investigations of last year’s massacre at Virginia Tech. In total, the draft’s recommendations call for ASU to reorganize its campus safety efforts to ensure that the departments talk to each other and share relevant information.
That reorganization would create an emergency manager position.
“This recommendation is that there be an additional person, (whose) sole focus of coming to work every day is thinking about emergency preparedness,” said Paul Ward, ASU’s general counsel.
Two mass killings at U.S. universities in the past year have forced all of higher education to evaluate how well institutions protect students. School officials are also debating when and if it is appropriate to share student information, including mental health files, with parents and law enforcement.
Student shooters at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University had a documented history of mental illness.
The ASU committee’s work first became public in February when news reports detailed a proposal to seek information on some students’ psychological histories.
ASU disavowed any such measure, amid backlash from the mental health community.
The Tribune obtained the draft report through a public records request.
Several committee members declined to comment to the Tribune about the draft report, saying that it would be inappropriate to do so until the document is in its final, official form. The report was originally supposed to be finished in December, and university officials have repeatedly pushed back the deadline.
Regardless, Ward said the university began implementing many of the recommendations months ago. That includes expanding ASU’s emergency notification, which can spread word via e-mails, cell phone text messages and, in some cases, people going door-to-door.
The draft report questioned the system’s effectiveness. “The committee is concerned that the current system will not deliver messages in a timely manner.”
The text message system was first used in November, when a fire severely damaged the university’s busiest building, the Memorial Union, in the middle of a weekday. About 5,000 people evacuated safely, but officials did not send warning messages until more than 30 minutes after firefighters had extinguished the blaze.
ASU should also “create a database allowing for cross campus access to student behavioral and discipline issues,” the draft states. That database will only include information the university has long gathered, particularly violations of the student conduct code, said Kimberly Novak, ASU campus development director.
Under federal law, university officials will have access to the student data, but only in certain situations. “It depends on the nature of the record and the reason for access,” Ward said.
To determine whether a student or employee poses a threat, the committee recommends ASU establish a Behavioral Review Team. The team of university officials would evaluate the person’s history to determine how to respond to worrisome behavior, said Cmdr. Rich Wilson, an ASU police operations director.