Think, Know, Prove–Safety and Security

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

The biggest non-event of the week (maybe the semester) was easily Thursday’s “Stay In Place” Drill. There’s been some discussion of it already in Thursday’s posts, including UsuallyConfused’s suggestion that s/he feels less safe now after doing the drill instead of safer.

Over the last few years the college has had a few discussions related to safety and security issues. There was Judi Nitsch’s college wide email in FA08 about an incident in her class and a few other experiences. She wrote:

I apologize for the mass email but believe the information to be pressing for all faculty at Harold Washington College. I would like to report to the community a disturbing incident that occurred Tuesday evening, after my 5:30 class had begun. I reported this incident and am equally disturbed by the response from the institution. Such information, I submit, should be publicly disseminated, as it is at most campuses through a system of “campus alerts.” Without such a system in place, we invite dangerous situations to occur on our campus; we endanger our students and our own lives…

I am not asking for a fortress-like campus, but I submit that the surrounding community views our security as lax. In the future, I will call 911 for assistance, as I take the safety of myself and my students very seriously. I also submit that, as a community, we need a consistent, recorded practice and procedure for handling such emergency situations.

Then there was the all college meeting in the wake of the shootings at one campus or another, announcing the formation of the Pandemic/Security Committee or something like that and discussion mostly focused on some ceiling projectors that had been brazenly stolen over the summer (I have to admit to a tremendous amount of fuzziness on the history of this one–it could be that I’m mixing together different meetings in my memory. I’m sure I was late to it/them, and I know that, going in, I was dubious about the need/efficacy of what would come out of it.).

I also know, that when I started, anything that wasn’t bolted down, walked away. (I remember being told that I shouldn’t leave my office door open when I went to my mailbox because if I did, when I returned my course books (backpack/coat/lunch/pencils) would be gone. In FA08 there seemed to be a resurgence in object disappearances, but it’s died back down now in my estimation). I still try to avoid providing unnecessary temptations to people, but I am generally not concerned about theft. I’ve had semesters where it seemed like there were a few more imbalanced, as in emotionally unstable, people than others, and I’ve had a few interactions with people here and there that left me feeling vaguely unsettled (though never threatened). I’ve also heard, at departmental meetings mostly, about a few incidents where colleagues felt downright endangered–usually much more so after the fact.

If and when I get around to doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing, Faculty Council will have a survey on campus security for faculty to take. In the meantime, I’d like to start the discussion here (or maybe continue the discussion from Thursday’s threads, with the opportunity to broaden it). Mr. Rozelle told Faculty Council that security’s prime directive is “to prevent and remove disruptions from the educational environments.” When we asked him about doing a survey of the faculty, he predicted that the faculty estimation of the security staff and the security of the college would be “bad.”  That surprised me, and I wondered when I heard it, what I didn’t know about.

And so I ask you: does the security staff follow its directive in your experience? Is your estimation of the safety and security of the college that it is “bad”? Do you feel safe on campus? Are you?

What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

(h/t to UsuallyConfused for the topic)

7 thoughts on “Think, Know, Prove–Safety and Security

  1. Well, here we go again. Likely I’m speaking to about six of us, doing it essentially as a knee-jerk e-mail, and the whole consideration will be off the radar in less than 20 hours. Nonetheless, here goes.

    What happened Thursday was just silly. This raises two obvious questions: “Why do we have to do anything?” and “What should we do?”

    The first is purely philosophical. In our Brave New World of lost innocence, the “authorities” (raises another question, doesn’t it?) have decided that we will do something and that’s that; so move to the second question. But I want to spend some time on the FIRST question dag-gammit (or whatever it is that Hawk Harrelson substitutes for “God damn it” whenever the Sox’s wiggle misfortune from opportunity). The academy has to quit accepting every socio, economic, political, litigious, environmental, technological, etc., rearing or change as the next great mandate for education! … But, … we’re not going to do it here. … So, on to the second question after all. Argh.

    What should we do? … Let me begin with the one thing we should NOT do. We should not be forced to leave our cells phones on during class! And that brings us precisely to what we should do: Quit asking what I should do to save YOU from litigation, … ask what YOU should do to save US from harm. The answer then quickly emerges. Throw technology at it! [How many educators throughout the nation are being forced to do things with technology merely for the sake of using technology? They have technology for that, they should have technology for this.]

    First, wire the building for either light (video) or sound (audio) signals. [It didn’t take long to wire the building for internet and certain cameras.] Have at least two signals: One signal says “leave the building” (fire, bomb, virus, etc.) the other says “lock yourself in somewhere and turn on your cell phone to receive valuable information” (terrorist, crazed personnel, etc.) A third “all clear” signal would be nice, but not essential. Second, arrange that ALL doors can be locked from either a flip-latch inside the room, or a flip-latch in the jab (as is the case for many doors already). That way, no special keys are needed by anyone, and authorities can still enter, if necessary, with a key from outside the room.

    It’s simple. It doesn’t require new keys, white cards, the permanent monitoring of vibrating cell phones, etc. It’s a one-time cost. The feds would probably foot the full cost out of some kind of homeland security or school-security funds.

    Tell me why I’m wrong.

    • Why MathArt is wrong: Though it may not seem like it, there are definitely more than six of us. There were three days this week where we had more than 130 visits that day. The other four ranged from 40 to 80. You may have a big, though silent, following, MathArt!

      Second, and this is hopefully somewhat apparent by now, though the conversation may not live for weeks at a time as a continuous entity, the big topics, like developmental education, say, have a tendency to turn back up. This way, the LACK of a sustained conversation creates some space for reflection on it and incorporation of new information as it comes down the pike. It also affords us a sense of priority. If the same thing keeps coming up again and again, that would seem to be a signal that it is an issue of some difficulty/importance that needs more attention.

      So, I hear you on both of those counts, but I think wrong to think your audience is a tiny handful of regular commenters and that the discussion is so ephemeral as to not matter.

      I didn’t read past the first paragraph yet, though, because I want to save it for later, but from a quick skim, I think I agree with the rest.

      Oh, except for the cards. Those serve two purposes, I think. One: they are meant to block the sight of a potential threat who may want be able to look through the window and get a sense of where the people in the room are (to, say, shoot through the drywall. The cards obviously don’t work very well for that, but I don’t think they are what will ultimately be used. Second, it would be a signal to the responding tactical squad that the room is a safe room (i.e., the threat is not IN that room), which would help them “clear” the spaces of the building and have a sense of where they ought NOT to be looking.

      So, we might need the cards (or something like them).

      Carry on.

      • Oh, and one more: the answer to your first question isn’t purely philosophical–we had to do the drill because there’s a law that says we have to. Now why is there such a law (or whether we should always be in compliance with the law, etc.), is another thing…

      • Per PhiloDave’s comments, I assume there are more readers than writers on this blog. It’s important to keep communicating your ideas. The Lounge is half-full of visitors, not half-empty.

        Hey MathArt, you sure you don’t bleed Cubbie blue? You sure sound like one of us. Wait till next year, I mean, the next posting…

        • 33 as of 11:34 am. Maybe not all different people, but certainly not three people coming back 10 times.

          At least I don’t think that’s what happens (and if it is, y’all need to get off your computers!)

  2. Building on MathArt’s comments, I have a couple of suggestions:
    1. We have security cameras in the building already. Build on it, add a few more. Why not wire rooms with cameras (you can even go wireless these days) and have them activated in case of an emergency? Intercom announcements would provide guidance. I suggest each remaining classroom that is not configured for multimedia be equipped with a computer or laptop to communicate with the college/district while locked-in the room. Oh heck, how much does a USB webcam cost?

    I make these recommendation in order to take advantage of existing infrastructure, technology, and the improvement of working conditions for all faculty, full and adjunct. Cost would determine if this option is feasible, but as PhiloDave has alluded to before: What price do we put on securing our community in the event that this becomes a real drill?

    2. “Sox’s wiggle misfortune from opportunity” When you gonna learn, MathArt? Come to the Friendly Confines.
    At least they do it in broad daylight! HA!

    • I have to admit, … Chicago does have two good baseball teams: … the White Sox, and … who ever is playing the Cubs!!!

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