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Facing New Challenges in Campus Safety & Violence Prevention

December 8, 2015 Board of Higher Education Meeting

Those of us who have spent the bulk of our careers at universities and colleges like to imagine that we operate in a bubble, immune from the messy reality that often surrounds us. If only the outside world would allow us the time and serenity to focus on the things that higher education does best: teaching and learning... But this idyllic world does not exist now, if it ever did.

The challenges facing the broader society have always been our challenges as well. As societal violence has escalated in this country, so has it manifested itself on college campuses. Active shooters, sexual violence, and providing an inclusive educational environment for all students have, by necessity, risen to the top of the higher education agenda.

In this respect, the DHE is working to convene a Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force in January. The group will include representatives from public and private higher education institutions, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Executive Offices of Public Safety and Health & Human Services. The anticipated outcome is a report to update earlier work on active shooters and sexual violence and to host a statewide conference to highlight best practices.

The Department has posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) for consultant services to assist the task force in its three major priority focus areas:

  1. Active shooters—Assessing the status of implementation of the BHE’s existing policy on active shooter prevention and response, and evaluating the currency and relevancy of these recommendation for possible amendments.
  2. Campus sexual violence—Amending the BHE’s existing policy to incorporate new guidance and best practice recommendations on identifying, preventing, reporting and responding to campus sexual violence.
  3. Cultural sensitivity and inclusion—Making recommendations that encourage cultural sensitivity, and assessing response guidelines on hate crimes and incidents of bias against members of protected classes.

Our expectation is that the task force will conclude its work in June. It is an ambitious project to tackle in six short months. Balancing safety with the traditional openness of the academy will require sound knowledge and judgment, but any institution that ignores these challenges does so at its own peril.

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