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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Town Hall Meeting; Response to Virginia Tech Shootings

    On Wednesday, Apr. 18, a town hall meeting was held in the Stony Brook Union Auditorium, during which senior administrators discussed emergency management procedures with the campus community. The meeting was called in the wake of the shooting spree at Virginia Tech, which killed over 30 students and faculty. Administrators present included President Shirley Strum Kenny, VP of Student Affairs Peter Baigent, and Assistant Chief of University Police Doug Little.

    The administrators tried to assure the students and faculty that no effort is being spared in protecting their safety. Among things discussed were ongoing refinements to emergency procedures, current abilities of law enforcement, and mental health resources available.

    Among new plans for publicizing services, such as the Counseling Center include daily announcements on Blackboard and SOLAR, according to Chief Information Officer Richard Reeder.

    A new crisis hotline is in the works, which would provide a single number to call about concerns of the emotional health of oneself, or another.

    The administrators said that following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they began a reevaluation of emergency procedures, and came up with a plan implemented for every situation that arises. Little said that the police answer around 20,000 calls every year, and most are ‘level 1,’ or minor emergencies. There are 3 levels, with level 2 being one affecting multiple buildings or classes. An example of a level 2 emergency is Sunday’s storm, which knocked out power to most dormitories. Level 3 is one involving a major disaster, such as a major fire, hurricane, or terrorist attack.

    All administrators stressed that the university works very closely with other law enforcement and emergency management agencies throughout the county and state, and has a very close relationship with the Suffolk County Police Department. To this end, school administrators were in meetings last Friday to prepare for the storm early this week.

    Campus officials also reminded those present that they are the eyes and ears for the police, and to report suspicious activity, or distressed students. Little encouraged student leaders to discuss safety matters in their organizations.

    Counseling Center Director Anne Byrnes reminded everybody that free psychological help is available through their offices, and patients can usually be seen immediately. She told the audience that many people don’t seek help for themselves or another out of fear of negative consequences. She said that people do report students who seem distressed or disturbed on a regular basis. Such students include those who submit threatening messages much as the VT shooter did. Depending on the situation, the student can be mandated to come in for an evaluation. However, if a case is severe enough, the student will be told to take a medical leave until they can document that they’ve addressed their problems. This happens once or twice a year, according to Byrnes.

    Dean of Students Jerrold Stein added, ‘Everybody’s a contact to make a referral.’

    Another subject discussed was how to quickly inform the campus of a major emergency. Ideas of a mass text-messaging system, a public address system, and a siren were discussed. According to Reeder, there has been a discussion of digital signs on the campus, which could be used in emergencies. Reeder added that the services available in an emergency could dictate the means of informing people.

    One system currently in place is the emergency email mailing list operated by Emergency Management, which is currently advertised in new student orientations, but open to anyone.

    As far as current status goes, Little said that university police response time is about 1-3 minutes, and Suffolk police soon after. In addition, officers receive training at an actual police academy, such as Suffolk County’s.

    When the question of a ‘lockdown’-type procedure arose, Little said that such a procedure would be unfeasible. ‘We’re a city, and a city has to run.’

    He felt that a lockdown, in the high school definition, would not be possible on a campus with over 110 buildings and 35,000 people. They do, however, cordon off buildings and cancel classes, with the permission of the president’s office.

    Baigent added that though they do close off buildings over issues of safety, they are taking ‘a hard look’ at current procedures. An audience member expressed concern about the inability to seal classroom doors in some buildings with a desk due to the height of the door knobs. There were also calls for more emergency information TV monitors, as well as a broadcast system.

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