Security alerts prompt Faculty Senate meeting

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Security alerts prompt Faculty Senate meeting

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Kendra Jones
Issue date: 12/5/07 Section: News

The University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Faculty Senate Committee is scheduled to discuss campus security issues today at 3 p.m. in the Architecture Auditorium. The meeting is open to UH students.

At a Faculty Senate Committee meeting on Nov. 21, the faculty senate unanimously affirmed that the campus community needs to be alerted to threats in a timelier manner while using better methods.

During that meeting, a question arose from the faculty members about the obligation to notify the campus immediately and allow room for people to decide how to react for themselves. There was also concern that an Oct. 25 e-mail alert was too brief, vague and an insufficient way to notify the campus community.

A mass e-mail notification was sent Oct. 25 by Campus Security to UH students and staff regarding a man who was overheard talking to himself about planning to shoot 30 UH students. It was not included in the e-mail that the suspect was known to the Honolulu Police Department and had a history of mental illness.

Laura Saiki-Chaves, vice president of Associated Students of the University of Hawai'i said, "When it comes to alerting students of the possible dangers on campus, we believe that no measure is too small. Though e-mail alerts were sent to students, it was definitely not enough. There were many students who ... had absolutely no idea about the security alert."

"E-mail is useful for those who may be sitting in front of their computer at the time of the incident, but by large is woefully inadequate," said Jerome Comcowich, a committee member from the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.

Comcowich said he thought a more effective way to notify the campus would be to have security vehicles use their public address system to broadcast a warning throughout the entire campus.

Gregg Takayama, UH director of communications, said the response would have been more intensive had HPD considered it a serious threat. Enabling the campus-wide PA system would have resulted in major campus disruptions, Takayama added.

Takayama told the committee that had the threat been immediate, the loudspeakers would have been utilized. Radio and TV stations would have been asked to broadcast an emergency message. He also said that many buildings on campus have fire alarm systems that can be enabled to make public announcements.

These systems, however, have not been tested and not all of the fire alarms have been retrofitted to function as PA systems, the committee members were told.

"If we as a nation learned anything about the Virginia Tech shootings (it) is that having an efficient alert system can not and must not be overlooked," Saiki-Chaves said.

UH is currently looking into including mass text messaging as a means of notifying students and faculty of emergencies, Takayama said. Takayama added that Information Technology Services will be testing a mass text-messaging system at the end of this year. If the tests are successful, ITS hopes the system will be available for students to volunteer their cell phone numbers by early next year.

"The idea of sending mass text messages is excellent," Saiki-Chaves said. "A person would not have to be connected to the Internet or checking their e-mail to be notified, as it would happen instantly via their cell phone."

Members present at the student affairs meeting agreed that security should have broadcast the information to the campus community immediately because many people had no knowledge of the threat.

Many people, including Sheri Fong, an assistant professor for anatomy, biochemistry and physiology, have said that had they known sooner, they would have opted to stay away from the campus that afternoon.

"I'm disappointed with UH's general handling of the situation," said senior Caitlin Jackson, a kinesiology major. "I'm stressed out enough with classes; I shouldn't have to worry about my safety being compromised."

In contrast, freshman Troy Muenzer said, "UH Campus Security did a perfect job, and I feel safe seeing that they were taking action and communicating with HPD."

Several people said while they were nervous and felt vulnerable being on campus, they went to class anyway. Stacy Little, a senior speech pathology and audiology major, said, "I did know about it, and I still attended class because I guess we live in a world where we think, 'It won't happen to me.'"

Some other recommendations from Faculty Senate Committee members at the last meeting to improve campus security:

* Set up a campus hot line for emergency situations.

* Consider creating an automated mass telephone alert system to call all campus numbers during an emergency or a threat. An automated warning would give directions, such as directing people to check their e-mail or a designated Web site.

* Use the blue campus phone system as an emergency alert system. The blue lights would flash to cue people to check their e-mail or a campus hot line for further information.

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Original Source: The Voice - Ka Leo
<a href="http://media.www.kaleo.org/media/storage/paper872/news/2007/12/05/News/Security.Alerts.Prompt.Faculty.Senate.Meeting-3133290.shtml">http://media.www.kaleo.org/media/storage/paper872/news/2007/12/05/News/Security.Alerts.Prompt.Faculty.Senate.Meeting-3133290.shtml</a>

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Kendra Jones

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2008-03-12

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Kacey Beddoes

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Kumari Sherreitt <editor@kaleo.org>

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eng

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Kendra Jones, "Security alerts prompt Faculty Senate meeting," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1814, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1814 (accessed October 1, 2014).