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An eye on campus safety

Part I of an in depth look at Brandeis security

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Front Page, News


PHOTO BY Sophie Silverstein/The HootFollowing the Virginia Tech shootings last April, administrators have begun to consider additional security protocols to increase campus safety.

“I believe in three P’s,” said Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan: “Proactive, prepared, and here to protect the community.”

To help promote on-campus safety, Callahan said, Public Safety meets representatives from Student Life, Residence Life, Health Services, Drug and Alcohol Counselors regularly. “Everybody’s in this together,” he said. “It’s not like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

In addition to inter-office communications, the university has installed “notification systems” to help alert students in the event of an emergency.

According to Vice-President of Campus Operations Mark Collins, students can register on Sage to receive emergency updates and instructions through a variety of sources, including e-mails, voicemails, and text messages on their cell phones. A weather emergency alert was issued already this semester on Jan. 14, when the snow forced the university to close.

As of last month, “I think that approximately 89 percent of the student [undergraduate] population had registered in that system,” Collins said.

He also added that students can “register and update this thing to the amount of frequency that you want to… if you want to alert your parents of an emergency situation arises, you can put their number down.”

Meanwhile, he added, four sirens were put up around campus over the summer. Stationed in X-Lot, the Gosman Athletic Fields, Rabb Graduate Center, and the Volen Center, “the siren is an indicator that something happened,” said Collins. “When they hear that siren going out, simultaneously they should be getting text-messages and e-mails with instructions of what to do.”

One option, Collins stated, would be to go to “areas of safety,” which include Usdan, the Gosman Athletic Center, Spingold Theatre, and the Charles River Commons. “If in the North academic quad there was a gas leak, we’d want to clear out the North residence quad—you would hear, ‘North Quad, please report to Usdan,’” Collins said. “[Each safety area] is a large area that would accept a substantially large amount of people that would accommodate for the large number of people that we might have to evacuate.”

“The final piece would be the plasma screens in the central locations like the Shapiro Campus Center, Gozman, [and] two going up in Rabb,” said Collins. During a situation, he said, Public Safety would be “generally the first-responder, the first one who might be notified. They are the ones who would receive a call or fall upon a situation where an emergency might be decided.”

He added the decision would be made in conjunction with Callahan and senior leadership, including Chief Executive Officer Peter French: “Peter would be hot-lined immediately and a decision would be made immediately to enact one or all of these actions,” said Collins.

Other security innovations include the installation of closed-circuit television cameras. While he would not reveal the number of the cameras for security purposes, Collins said the university was considering installing additional cameras. “We’re constantly reviewing the program, to see where we might add things with technology—that’s always ongoing, and I think that’ll always be something that’s ongoing.”

Many students felt comfortable with the new additions to campus security.

Laura Wolf ’08, meanwhile, said the system “needs to be more well-known and not mandatory.”

“I think it’s really good because I didn’t get a notification about the snowstorm until I heard it on the voicemail and I had a midterm that day,” said Tina Rong ’11.

Some students, however, were skeptical. Leah Edelman ’08 added, that while “as a general concept it makes me feel safer, there are other things they could do first to make Brandeis more secure.”

“Technology is moving at leaps and bounds and we’re keeping up to date,” Collins added. “It’s a good thing for us, it’s a good thing for campus, and it’s a good thing we’re able to keep an eye on areas, even remotely… it gives us a lot more coverage.”

Editor’s Note: Allison Simon ’11 contributed to this report.