UIndy officials strive to keep campus safe

rallypoints
Graphic by Jenna Krall

Safety on college campuses is a growing concern of many across the country. For example in October of 2015, TIME magazine published an article that highlighted a total of 23 campus shootings during a 10-month period. With increasing publicity about school shootings and cases of sexual assault on campuses, campus safety has been in recent years a much discussed issue.

Despite the negative publicity about  surrounding campus safety across the country, Vice President of Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli maintains that UIndy is incredibly safe and that the faculty, staff and students are continually  working to educate, inform and improve in every area regarding safety.

Vitangeli said that the safety of the UIndy community remains a constant effort for the faculty and staff on campus.

“I think campus safety is always a priority for us,” Vitangeli said. “[The fact] that we have a full-fledged police force on campus, and we have officers that monitor 24 hours a day, shows our commitment to safety. One of the No. 1 priorities of us at UIndy is to make sure that students, faculty and staff feel safe on campus, that they are safe on campus and that we are paying attention to things that are going on within the city and how they impact our campus.”

According to UIndy Police Chief David Selby, the university continues to stay a step ahead of other college campuses when it comes to safety.

“We are an extremely safe campus,”  he said. “I think we are prepared as well or better than most campuses I have been on. I’ve been at Butler, and I’ve been at IU. This is a community thing [campus safety], so everybody has to be prepared.”

A recent event on campus, an evacuation prompted by a bomb threat, elevated the issue of campus safety. The incident lasted for nearly an hour and involved the evacuation of all campus buildings and a “search and sweep” in every building by the UIndy police. Vitangeli said that the response and reactions from the campus community were impressive.

“In general, I think we felt really good about how the campus responded,” she said. “That was the first time we evacuated campus for a bomb threat. I think in the instance that people got the Watchdog, and people took it seriously. We were able to—in a matter of 15 minutes—have everyone vacated from every campus building. So I thought that was pretty impressive that people really took things seriously and listened when they needed to go.”

Selby praised the members of the safety committee who were stationed in each building as he explained the process of the evacuation.

“We had to do it marginally [the evacuation],” Selby said. “We sent people to rally points because we didn’t want everybody jumping in a car and flooding the intersection. I think the people that were on the safety committees did a fantastic job. And not only that, this is not something that people are paid extra to do. They do it because they truly care about the people and the community members. They put themselves out there to do this kind of work for the safety of everybody.”

Vitangeli explained the role of the safety committee members and the staff members of residence life who helped facilitate the evacuation.

“Campus police have trained individuals [safety committee members] in every building acting as evacuation coordinators, and their job is to let folks know within the building where to go,” she said. “Now does that mean that everybody always knows that? I think we have to work on that. But each building has a rally point. Most of them are in parking lots away from the buildings.”

Selby said that an investigation has been launched by both Homeland Security and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in response to the bomb threat. He said similar threats also were called in at Southport High School and St. Francis, which are believed to be connected to the threat on UIndy’s campus and also under investigation.

Vitangeli mentioned that overall campus security has increased greatly since the implementation of keycard-only access to residence halls and that a plan for the near future is to apply the same security access to other buildings on campus.

According to Selby, responsibility for student safety relies heavily on each individual taking the time to educate himself or herself on safety procedures.

“I can do all kinds of stuff, but the bottom line is [that] you have to take ownership of your own personal safety,” he said. “When you leave here, if you go work in New York City, there’s not going to be a campus police department with somebody saying, ‘Come on, follow me. Let’s do this, let’s do that.’ So what are you going to do then? Who are you going to go talk to and say, ‘Where is my rally point? What should I do?’ You have to start learning and educating yourself now.”

The UIndy police department has posted information about campus safety on the MyUIndy website under the Public Safety link. These materials include policies and procedures, emergency management, fire safety information, contact information for the UIndy police, Title IX information, a guide on how to report a crime on campus, parking information, technology safety information and details about the UIndy PACT initiative.