On Valentine’s Day, students at Northern Illinois University witnessed yet another college shooting. According to the New York Times, a lockdown and notification system was put into effect immediately, similar to the TU-Alert system that university officials recently tested.
“I don’t know very much about their system,” said Temple communications director Ray Betzner, whose son was a student at Virginia Tech last year during the shootings on that campus in April 2007.
“There are similar systems that are being used at colleges and universities around the country. For instance, the University of Pennsylvania has the same system we do,” Betzner said.
With this recent rash of campus shootings and security breaches on Temple’s campus, administrators and Campus Safety Services are instituting extra security measures.
After the Nov. 1 assault in Anderson Hall last year, ID checks in lecture halls campus-wide, especially in Anderson and adjacent Gladfelter Hall, became tighter than ever. At the beginning of this semester, students also noticed locked bathrooms on upstairs floors of the towers.
“As far as the bathrooms, there were some that were secure prior to [the assault] and then others that we looked at and decided to secure them,” said Charles Leone, deputy director of Campus Safety Services. “We’ve just made a change that we’re going to have them open during the day because there’s a lot of free flow, there’s a lot of folks in the building. In the evening, we’re going to have keys accessible.”
Senior theater major Erin Ryan said she doesn’t think strict ID checks or locked bathrooms make too much of a difference.
“The only thing that I like that they changed is the new alert system that they’ve added in, which I think was more a result of Virginia Tech than the [sexual assault],” she said. “But they just tested it, and they’ll send you a text message to your cell phone. On a campus this big, it’s more effective.”
Betzner said the alert system works by first sending a text message notification, then calling the same cell phone with an automated notification message and then sending an e-mail.
He said that only 25 percent of the total population of Temple has signed up for text messages and phone calls.
“We want students to know they’re not going to get a text message or a telephone call unless they sign up for it through OWLnet,” Betzner said. “The e-mail will go out to everyone who has a ‘temple.edu’ e-mail address.”
In addition to the TU-Alert, Leone and Campus Safety Services executive director Carl Bittenbender said they are always looking for ways to make security on campus safer and more convenient.
“We look at everything, believe it or not, on a daily basis. We look at just about the whole picture of security, policing, everything from maps to just talking to folks and getting information from our Web site,” Leone said. “We’re always asking people to send us information. Anything we get, we take a look.”
Both Leone and Bittenbender said they’re also optimistic about Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey’s new crime fighting plan for Philadelphia.
“It’s good to get a fresh look,” Leone said. “We’re looking at anywhere possible to come up with the best practices.”
Bittenbender said he would not have let his daughter live on campus for the four years she attended Temple if he wasn’t confident about the security. Leone’s son will also be coming to Temple in the fall.
“It really is exceptional the amount [of security] that Temple provides,” Bittenbender said. “I feel good about this place.”
Morgan A. Zalot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.