University officials take a look at campus safety

Christina Anthony

In light of the Virginia Tech shootings, many officials as well as students and parents are thinking about college and university safety in a new way.

“I think everyone is looking for a change,” said Elyse Picchetti, sophomore hospitality management major. “Something like Virginia Tech could always happen at Kent State, and we need to take measures against it.”

President Lester Lefton is taking a page from Gov. Ted Strickland’s book.

Dan FitzPatrick, associate director of public safety, said Lefton has organized a task force whose duty is to make recommendations concerning existing safety and security policies. This team is similar to the task force set up by Strickland, which is making recommendations to improve the safety and security on all Ohio college and university campuses.

The task force at the state level has suggested the registration of student cell phones, the creation of an emergency hotline and the holding of periodic disaster drills.

Kent State students can register their cell phones with the school as proposed by the state task force, but this registration is not used to warn students of campus dangers, campus security manager Brian Hellwig said. At this time, phone registration is for personal use only.

Students can register their cell phone numbers on the directory through Web for Students on FlashLine. The directory can be used to find phone numbers and e-mail addresses of students and faculty. Students and employees can also remove their personal information.

Currently, Kent State has emergency alert message monitors in all buildings as well as e-mail alerts for emergency situations.

The campus task force is also looking for ways to strengthen the emergency manual used to define procedures in emergency situations.

Kent State is ranked among the top 2 percent for campus safety by the Consortium for Higher Education Campus Crime Research. Kent State’s Police Department was also the first Ohio university agency to be accredited with flagship status from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

To earn flagship status, the campus police had to complete a reaccreditation process. Interviews were held with police personnel and university and police records were combed to ensure the campus police were doing what they could to keep the campus safe.

Despite their recognition, campus police and security are not taking safety for granted.

“There are always things we can do to improve safety,” Hellwig said.

Contact police and courts reporter Christina Anthony at [email protected].