U. of Wyoming Planning Campus Safety Initiatives for Fall Semester

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Having learned valuable lessons from the recent shootings at Virginia Tech, the University of Wyoming (UW) is preparing to implement several campus initiatives that will be in place for the fall semester.

“Virginia Tech’s tragedy has reinforced that colleges and universities should promote environments for campus community members to share concerns about others in need; review agreements among campus police and local law enforcement agencies; improve building and grounds security; and strengthen capabilities for communicating with the campus community during an emergency,” says UW Vice President for Student Affairs Sara Axelson. “We are taking steps to implement improvements in each of these areas prior to the start of school this fall.”

While there have been strong working relationships among the University of Wyoming Police Department (UWPD), the city of Laramie Police Department (LPD) and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, the three agencies have been working this summer on a series of memoranda of understanding governing the roles each will play in emergency and non-emergency situations. According to new UWPD Chief Troy Lane, LPD Chief Bob Deutsch and Sheriff Jim Pond, those memoranda will be finalized this summer. Additional arrangements among UW, the city, and the county will improve information sharing on problems involving UW students.

UW Dean of Students Dave Cozzens notes that the university is working on an anonymous tip Web site that people on and off-campus can use to relay safety concerns they might have. Separate tabs on the site will distribute information to UWPD in the event of immediate concerns and criminal matters, to the Dean of Students Office for issues regarding student behavior or welfare, and to the University Counseling Center for assistance with mental and emotional issues. Concerns expressed to these three offices will be addressed promptly.

Building and grounds security is being address in short-term and long-term initiatives. In the short-term, the university is installing two new call boxes, linked with UWPD along Fraternity and Sorority Row. The call boxes are one means the university is taking to address those concerns.

In the long-term, the university is exploring the installation of a technology backbone that will allow for the centralized control of building entrances on campus. While area police stress that every emergency situation is different and must be addressed according to individual circumstances, the ability to lock down whole buildings or individual rooms can provide essential options during an emergency. Since installing the technology backbone and technology-enabled doors is very expensive, the university is planning to take an initial funding request to the legislature during its 2008 session.

UW also is acquiring technology that will allow it to communicate with students and their parents, staff, and faculty during emergency situations. The university has for years used its e-mail system, Web site, internal Web portal, and media notices in a variety of emergency situations. By the beginning of the fall semester, UW will have installed emergency notification capabilities in the Wyoming Union and a system that will send emergency messages simultaneously to registered e-mail addresses, the university Web site and portal, and cell phones via voice mail and text messaging.

“We know that nearly 100 percent of our students carry cell phones and that text and voice messaging are important communication methods for students today,” says Axelson. “The same is largely true of our employees. In the event of an emergency, the ability to communicate quickly with our students, staff, and faculty is essential. The system we will implement also has the ability to register cell phones of students’ family members who need prompt, accurate information in the event of an emergency.”

With the exception of long-term building security measures, each of these initiatives is expected to be in place before the start of the fall semester. Comprehensive education campaigns about campus safety in general and these initiatives in particular will be conducted shortly after students arrive in August and on a regular basis thereafter.


University of Wyoming press release

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