President Julie Sullivan’s brown-bag session on March 13 addressed personal safety on campus and featured Karen Lange, vice president for student affairs, and Dan Meuwissen, public safety director, giving an introductory training to developing a personal safety plan, as well as outlining the many campus resources.
“This is a very timely topic, a topic that is getting a lot of attention not only here but around the country,” Sullivan said. “With recent events in Florida and elsewhere, current discussions about mental health, gun and school safety, it’s a time we’re asking questions about our own personal safety.
“It’s a time to step back for all of us and be reminded of the resources we have on campus to deal with these situations,” she added. “To be reminded of the professionals working 24/7 to keep our campus safe … and to be reminded of the cautions and precautions we can personally take.”
Lange and Meuwissen covered a wide range of topics highlighted below.
The role of UART and DART on campus.
Several administrators and staff make up the University Action Response Team (UART), which works together in response to crisis or emergency on campus. The group plans for events as well and carries out quarterly practice sessions based around potential emergency scenarios like a tornado or active shooter.
The Diversity Action Response Team works to be proactive in issues of diversity and inclusion.
“Our goals are clear: We want to anticipate what we might envision happening … and how we might respond,” Meuwissen said. “We want to be consistent and transparent … and maintain an inclusive, safe, friendly community.”
We are all responsible for safety on campus.
Campus safety is both a collective and personal effort, and it is incumbent on both elements to be proactive in taking steps to secure that safety. Meuwissen pointed out that – because emergency situations are often dynamic and come about unexpectedly – planning and training ahead of time are key.
“This is an orientation and introductory level to your own personal safety plan,” Meuwissen said. “The goal is to awaken you to developing your own plans and starting to develop your mindset to how we would handle an emergency situation.”
"Wherever you work on campus, you have some contact with students. If you notice something you need to say something," Lange said. "You know students the best and have regular, daily interaction with them. If you’re concerned, call the dean of students, public safety, counseling office."
In the case of an active shooter on campus…
St. Thomas follows the protocol of Run, Hide, Fight. Meuwissen highlighted that this is not a linear path of action; the first option should be to run to safety, and if that is not possible to barricade yourself in a safe location. Fighting should be a last resort if running and hiding are not viable options.
Meuwissen outlined the response process of an active shooter on campus, which includes an alert being sent through St. Thomas’ emergency notification system. (Click here to sign up.) Public Safety maintains strong relationships and training practices with Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, Meuwissen said, which would coordinate with on-campus officers to respond.
“Your job is to be safe for that 5-10 minutes, which is that normal incident time rate,” Meuwissen said, adding that employees should discuss their emergency response plans and that Public Safety is available to facilitate meetings and trainings around that.
There are many, many resources available to help ensure personal and campus safety, including…
- Public Safety officers available 24/7 at (651) 962-5100 to respond to any on-campus situation where an individual doesn’t feel safe, including as escorts around or off campus
- A detailed crisis resources manual
- Detailed active shooter policy
- Counseling and Psychological Services, especially the Learn to Live program for community members feeling overwhelmed or anxious about any personal safety issues
“These are entry-level planning concepts to help you working toward your own personal safety plan,” Meuwissen said.