Provost office reviews emergency planning

By MaryCate Most

After a student was shot and killed on the Purdue University campus in January, University administration and the University’s Office of Campus Emergency Planning were reminded of the likelihood of unforeseen violent outbreaks on campus.

“We were rudely reminded about (campus safety),” said Chancellor Phyllis Wise. “Many Purdue professors basically paid no attention, continued to lecture and in some cases actually were disparaging of students and other staff that were trying to alert them that this might actually be dangerous.”

Administrators and the Division of Public Safety’s Office of Campus Emergency Planning have emphasized the importance of creating both a conjunct emergency response plan across campus as well as individual plans for each University building.

On Monday, Provost Ilesanmi Adesida and Wise approved recommendations from University Police Lt. Todd Short that asked each faculty and staff member to include emergency response plans in their syllabi and disseminate these response plans at the start of the semester, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

“We want people to know (emergency procedures) before something happens, heaven forbid,” Short said. “I just want to get the information to get across campus. It is something that can be done, and I think that it is something that should be done.”

Short spoke at the Urbana-Champaign Senate meeting in February, encouraging the senate to support a plan to release more emergency information to faculty, staff and students at the start of every semester.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recently designated the University as a “Ready to Respond” campus, which means the campus has an overall action plan addressing concerns such as violence prevention, Short said.

This program centralizes the emergency action responses throughout campus, but in order to ensure security, Short said he hopes to individualize emergency responses in each building.

“We want to make sure that every building has their own plan that works under the auspices of the overall campus plan,” Short said. “It is a lot of work because a lot of buildings have multiple colleges and people in them. It is an individual plan, not a unit plan.”

Emergency Planning, which employs two people total, conducts between five and 10 building checks every month in which faculty and staff in that building meet to coordinate the emergency action plan that would take place in the event of an attack.

Out of roughly 400 buildings, the office has already approved 120 University buildings and 78 private certified buildings, Short said.

Aside from building checks, though, Short, Wise and Urbana-Champaign Senate Chair Roy Campbell urged faculty and staff to participate in making the campus safe and prepared for any attack that could occur.

“I have great sympathies for our neighbor university, Purdue, under these very trying circumstances,” Campbell said. “I would highly recommend for all the faculty at the University of Illinois to make themselves fully aware of the appropriate procedures used in emergencies.”

The Emergency Planning office does not have the authority to mandate instructors to take the time to run through the one-page script that he proposed, but Short said he hopes the University continues to make this a requirement in the future. With a campus of roughly 43,000 people and an Emergency Planning staff of two people, Short said it is necessary that all faculty members are aware of their building’s evacuation and emergency response plans and take steps to help students become aware as well.

“What we are asking people to do is to come to the trainings that we set up (regarding the emergency action plan),” Short said. “Quite frankly, it is quite difficult with only two or three people.”

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]