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Section Three: EXISTING CAMPUS SAFETY AND VIOLENCE PREVENTION PRACTICES IN MASSACHUSETTS

Overview

In this section, we present the results of our survey of existing safety and security conditions at Massachusetts public colleges and universities.

Process

In order to gain a sense of existing safety and violence prevention conditions at Massachusetts public institutions of higher education, we conducted an on-line survey of colleges and universities throughout the state. Appendix D provides the entire instrument with summary tabulations of the responses.

We surveyed all 29 schools in the system, but four schools did not respond to the survey request by the cut-off date of May 28, 2008. The results reported in this section are therefore based on the 25 schools that did respond, representing 90 percent of the state’s public college student population.

The 29 solicited schools are all part of the Massachusetts public college and university system. No private institutions were included in the sample. The survey contained 133 questions, which inquired about a variety of safety and security issues ranging from early detection and prevention to emergency response.

Of the 25 respondent schools, 56 percent identified themselves as either Urban or Inner City; less than 5 percent are rural. Sixty-two percent of the schools have a student population greater than 5,000, and over 80 percent have campuses that span more than 25 acres in land area.

Survey Results

1. Early Detection and Prevention

Mental health training is a key component of early detection and prevention. Ninety-one percent of the surveyed institutions report an increase of students with severe psychiatric problems in recent years.

Of the surveyed schools, 80 percent provided mental health training for health care staff, 77 percent provided it for residential staff, 48 percent provide it for student affairs personnel, 48 percent provided it for campus police officers, and 22 percent provided it for faculty (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities Providing Mental Health Training to Various Employee Groups

Graph shows that around 80% of Massachusetts public colleges and university campuses provide mental health training to health care and residential staff, around 50% provide it to police and student affairs, and around 25% provide it to faculty.

Eighty-three percent of the schools provide on-campus mental health services for students, and of these schools, 57 percent provide specialized services (e.g., substance abuse, suicide prevention, eating disorders) rather than just generalized services. Eighty-two percent of the schools have counselors that can see students immediately (i.e., same-day) in the event of a crisis. One-third of the schools have a waiting period of five or more days for non-emergency appointments at the counseling center. Ninety-one percent of the schools have Student-in-Need referral programs. Unfortunately, seventy-three percent do not provide mental health services outside of normal business hours (i.e., nights and weekends) (see Recommendations #1 and #2 in Section Four).

All of the surveyed schools have Employee Assistance Programs available for employees. However, only 52 percent make such programs available for contract workers.

Seventy-seven percent of the schools do not have a psychiatrist on staff or readily available. Ninety-percent do not have an accredited counseling center.

Eighty-one percent of the schools do not submit potentially violent writings, drawings and other forms of individual expression to a forensic behavioral science expert for review (see Recommendation #3).

With respect to privacy and information sharing laws, 95 percent of schools have on staff someone with a detailed understanding of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and all schools employ someone with a detailed understanding of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

2. Physical and Electronic Security

Eighty-three percent of the surveyed schools have a campus-wide master key system. Over half of the schools (58%) have exterior doors that are in need of repair or replacement (see Recommendation #4). Nine percent of schools have dormitories with exterior doors that cannot be closed and locked. Sixty-one percent of the schools still have lever action doors that can be locked together from the inside with chains. Seventy percent of schools report that classrooms and office doors cannot be locked from the inside. Seventy-five percent of schools do not have a campus-wide physical security program that allows for remote locking/unlocking of doors (see Recommendation #5). And 71 percent of schools report having no procedure or physical method in place for securing buildings that are vulnerable to attack.

Fifty-four percent of schools do not employ CCTV cameras on campus (see Recommendation #6). However, 80 percent of schools do employ a “Blue Light” or similar emergency call system on campus.

Seventy-six percent of schools do not have in-class/in-lab emergency signaling capabilities, such as emergency call stations or intercoms (see Recommendation #7).

3. Campus Police Department

Only 52 percent of schools train their campus police officers in active shooter response tactics (see Recommendation #8). Thirty-six percent of school police departments do not have an active shooter plan in place. Sixty-four percent of schools have never conducted active shooter drills. Of those schools that have conducted such drills, none of them have involved students.  

Seventy-six percent of schools have a dedicated command facility for police, and 76 percent of schools employ fewer than 25 campus police officers. All schools have campus police officers trained in first aid and CPR.

As shown in Figure 5, 80 percent of the schools have sworn police officers. Eighty-four percent have campus police officers who carry “less-than-lethal” weapons, and only one-third of schools have campus police officers who carry firearms (see Recommendation #10).

Figure 5: Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities with Officers that are Sworn, Carry Less-Than-Lethal Weapons, and Carry Firearms

Graph showing that the percentage of Massachusetts public colleges and university campuses with officers that are sworn and officers carrying less-than-lethal weapons are about 80%, and percentage of officers carrying firearms is about 30%.

Eighty percent of school police departments do not have equipment necessary to forcibly gain entry into locked buildings or classrooms (see Recommendation #11).

4. Mass Notification

All schools report having mass notification technology. As can be seen in Figure 6, various types of notification systems are used, with e-mail and phone systems being the most commonplace.

Seventy-six percent of schools report that they have used their mass notification system already, either as a test or under actual emergency conditions.

Forty-one percent of schools report that their communications equipment is not interoperable with local law enforcement agencies, and two-thirds report that their communications equipment is not interoperable with Federal law enforcement or emergency management agencies (see Recommendation #12).

One-third of the schools do not have a formal policy for use of their mass notification system (see Recommendation #13).

Figure 6: Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities with Mass Notification by Type of System

Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities with Mass Notification by Type of System, Email, telephone and text messaging are about around 90% or above, while wide-area paging comes it at around 37% and wide-area siren is the least used, coming in at around 10%

5. Policies and Procedures

One-third of the schools do not have a formal policy in place regarding what faculty and staff should do if they have concerns about a student or colleague who appears to have the potential for becoming violent (see Recommendation #14). Notably, 70 percent of schools do not specifically train faculty and staff on how to recognize risk factors for students and employees who may pose a significant risk of violence (see Recommendation #15).

Fifty-six percent of schools do not have a program for training particular faculty, staff and students for special responsibility in security awareness and procedures (e.g., passing on critical information, securing the classroom, acting as fire wardens, etc.) in response to crises (see Recommendation #17).

Twenty percent of schools do not include public safety as part of the orientation process for incoming students (see Recommendation #18).

Sixty-four percent of schools do not routinely conduct pre-entry screening of students for special needs, mental health, and criminal background (see Recommendation #19).

Eighty-eight percent of schools have not conducted a vulnerability assessment of their campus (see Recommendation #20).

One-third of schools do not have a mutual aid agreement with neighboring law enforcement agencies, and 48 percent do not have mutual aid agreements with surrounding communities for emergency medical training or support (see Recommendation #21).

Sixty-four percent of schools do not have a “Tip Hotline” to allow for anonymous reporting of suspicious behavior (see Recommendation #22).

All schools report having a policy dealing with weapons on campus. And all schools have a policy regarding Clery Act compliance.

6. Emergency Response

All schools report having an Emergency Response Plan (ERP). However, 18 percent of schools report that they do not review their ERP for changes in conditions, personnel, and positions at least once per year (see Recommendation #23).

Only 65 percent of the schools have a Threat Assessment Team (TAT) (see Recommendation #24). At each school with a TAT, the team is comprised of representatives from various departments and specialties. However, as can be seen in Figure 7, 88 percent of schools with a TAT do not have legal representation on the team (see Recommendation #25). More specifically, 75 percent of schools report that they do not have an attorney on the TAT who can discuss privacy and confidentiality issues, facilitate obtaining court injunctions and Temporary Restraining Orders, and assist in preparing legal documents to deal with potentially dangerous situations.

Figure 7: Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities with Particular Representatives on the Threat Assessment Team

Percentage of Massachusetts Public Colleges and Universities with Particular Representatives on the Threat Assessment Team, showing school administration with the most representatives at about 95%, while leagal representatives are the lowest at about 15%. Law enforcement, mental health and others rank in the middle between 70% and 82%.

Sixty-five percent of the schools report that they do not have a trained behavioral health Trauma Response Team (see Recommendation #26). Of those schools that do have such a team, 29 percent have their team located off-campus, and two-thirds of these off-campus teams have not been oriented to the culture and resources of the college or university.

 

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