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State's campus safety task force holds first meeting

May 1, 2007

Ohio University served as a videoconference site Monday for a meeting of a new statewide task force looking into campus safety issues. 

After the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings, every campus in the nation took a serious look at its crisis preparedness. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland thought it made sense for Ohio's higher education institutions to tackle the issues together. He asked Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut to establish a statewide task force that could review campus safety plans and promote best safety practices at Ohio colleges and universities.

Ohio University was one of the eight videoconference sites for the meeting, which was hosted by Fingerhut from the Ohio Supercomputer Center in Columbus. Representatives from Marietta College, Rio Grande Community College, Washington State Community College and Hocking College joined Ohio University Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith at the Ohio University gathering.

"Everyone wants a safe campus, and collegiality is important if the final recommendations are to work," Fingerhut said. 

The task force consists of more than 80 members, including at least one representative from every state public university and college and additional members appointed by Fingerhut. The chancellor will develop working groups that will meet between each of the three scheduled task force meetings. Dates will be announced soon. 

The four groups and the topics they will explore are:

  • Prevention: issues related to mental health, personal privacy, campus safety awareness and other precautions
  • Response: relationships between law enforcement and campus security and assistance from state law enforcement agencies
  • Communications: prevention measures and timely response to incidents
  • Resources: public and private resources needed to assist in implementing best practices

Each of the working groups will use its first meeting to discuss immediate actions to improve safety and security on Ohio campuses. During the second meeting, groups will begin drafting long-term initiatives. 

"This task force will not be a success if we don't come up with things we can accomplish now," Fingerhut said.

The teleconference attendees made recommendations to the chancellor regarding the most important focus areas:

  • additional state funding to ensure better security plans, especially at smaller institutions
  • better communication tools to help with campus notification
  • clarity regarding acceptable prevention practices with respect to privacy laws
  • collaboration and resource sharing among schools and law enforcement agencies located in the same geographical area
  • parent and student input in campus safety issues

Fingerhut will submit a comprehensive report to Strickland in mid-August. 

"When you look at this important issue, there has to be focused dialogue in order to have success," Smith said after the session. "This meeting was a great first step."

For more information about the Task Force on Campus Security, visit http://regents.ohio.gov.

Written by: George Mauzy, a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing

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