I hope you all had a restful and enjoyable break and that you are off to a great start for the second half of 2011-12. Campus has been buzzing with activity as students, faculty and staff all settle back into the swing of things.
As our campus resumes its busy pace, the safety of our campus community is our highest priority. Last week, we realized just how important safety is to our community—and how well our campus can respond when presented with a presumed threat.
Campus police received reports of two separate witnesses seeing a student carrying what appeared to be a concealed weapon. NC State’s campus police are fully trained professionals who are credentialed and accredited like any municipal police force. They monitor the safety of our campus 24-7, not only responding to potential threats and concerns, but also working to deter and prevent crime, as well as educate the community. Their response to last week’s reports showcased this as they diligently and swiftly searched specific portions of campus for anyone who fit the descriptions provided by the witnesses.
While our campus police are doing their job, we have a Crisis Communications Team that is convened as soon as a potential emergency is reported. The team meets regularly to participate in drills so that it is prepared for threats to our campus safety. We recognize that communicating with the campus community in the face of a potentially threatening situation is extremely important. To keep our faculty, staff and students informed, we use email, text messaging, the WolfAlert siren system, the NC State home page, social media and messages on about 200 electronic billboards to inform people of campus emergencies. During the incident last week, we employed several of these methods, including communication with media interested in reporting on the presumed gun sightings.
Last week’s event turned out to be a false alarm. The student had a toy gun as part of his involvement in the game “Humans vs. Zombies.” The game is a popular one on college campuses across the country and involves “humans,” armed with toy Nerf guns, attempting to avoid being tagged by “zombies.” In the spirit of the game and giving back, our students donate to charity some of the money raised by player fees. Working with the student organizers of the game and campus police, we issued new rules for future games—including carrying toy guns in the open so people can see that they are toys—and on ways we can better communicate about the game and its duration.
We live in a world where campus violence has become all too commonplace. But I’m proud of the professionals who responded to last week’s events. We responded quickly, we informed campus quickly via multiple communication channels and closed the case quickly after determining the source of the threat.
I urge our campus community to continue being aware of any possible dangers on campus and to notify campus police when in doubt. And I ask you to join me in taking pride in the way our campus manages safety, feeling confident in the people and systems in place that protect us from potential harm.