Keeping the University and its students safe

By Justin Randall

The tragic shooting of five students at Northern Illinois University has left our community with many unanswered questions: Could this happen here? How can we prevent this? What can we as students do to prevent this from happening in our own community? As our student body president, I can say with confidence that the University of Illinois is prepared to react to an incident on our campus community with the urgency necessary to ensure the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff.

The incident at the Northern Illinois University by one of our students is not an isolated event; it could happen anywhere. I am not limiting this to our nation’s colleges and universities. Instead, the open nature of our society allows this to occur at any time. The best example of this is the recent tragic shooting that occurred at the Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park, Ill., several weeks ago. It is often impossible to predict what will cause someone to inflict harm on other members of his community; however, it has become a reality to which we as a society must be prepared to react efficiently and effectively. At the University of Illinois, we are prepared to react to such a reality.

Since 1999, the University of Illinois Police Department has acted with a rapid response style. This style requires first responders to directly address and neutralize any threat, as opposed to waiting for large numbers of backup. This allows for any threat to our community to be neutralized quickly rather than allowing for potential threat growth.

Additionally, the UIPD has worked with increased levels of vigilance by participating in external resources that allow coordination between state and federal resources such as the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, in partnership with the FBI.

In Champaign-Urbana, partnerships have been made between local agencies to react to any potential emergency situation. The University of Illinois works closely with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to ensure proper egress from campus in the case of an emergency. MTD buses are equipped with a signal prioritization system that allows students to quickly leave the core campus area in case of an emergency. Additionally, StopWatch systems in place at major bus stops are enabled to alert passengers of any pending instructions for the area.

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    On campus, the help of the student body is required to prevent such tragedies on this campus. It is the responsibility of each and every student to act in a vigilant manner.

    Talk to your roommates, classmates and friends.

    Find out what is going on in their lives. It is extremely important to take notice of any changes in the behavior of an individual and alert the Office of the Dean of Students ( should this concern seem threatening. The dean of students will then utilize the threat response protocol to determine the seriousness of the threat and determine the necessary course of action to appropriately respond.

    Campus administration has several methods for reaching students and others with emergency information. Mass e-mail, a telephone tree, sirens and loudspeakers in police cars are just a few. Public Affairs is preparing to launch an emergency pop-up messaging system on the campus Web page, and CITES and the Office of Public Affairs have also created the Emergency Notification System ( to alert students in the case of an emergency via text message and e-mail.

    It is important to note that this will provide instant notification of an emergency situation on campus to students. In practice, only one student per classroom needs to note the text for the system to be effective, however, the more students who are signed up, the more likely it is that students will notice and react appropriately to an emergency within our campus.

    While it is not always possible to prevent the actions of those with intent to harm our community; however, it is comforting to know that there are strong measures in place to ensure the safety of those around us.

    It is also comforting to come together as a community and reflect on tragedy. It is with that in mind that I personally invite each member of our community to participate in a memorial vigil for the victims of the NIU tragedy. It will be taking place tonight on Anniversary Plaza (the Quad side of the Illini Union) at 9 p.m.

    There will be several speakers including Chancellor Richard Herman, Vice Chancellor Renee Romano and the dean of the School of Social Work, Sandra Korr. Please come out and join us in this moving event. It is important that we remember that while we are all loyal Illini, today we are all Huskies. We can never forget those who tragically lost their lives in Cole Hall in DeKalb.