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Report: Campus safety insufficient

Attorney General advocates mental health disclosure

 by Matt Culbertson
 published on Tuesday, September 11, 2007


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ASU is taking "aggressive measures" to prevent a tragedy like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech University, but the University still isn't safe, said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

A report released Thursday by Goddard said there are major problems in laws and educational policies that do not adequately protect students in Arizona schools and universities, and offered suggestions for improvement.

Some of ASU President Michael Crow's suggestions for improvements to campus safety went into the report, Goddard said. Some of Crow's suggestions included backing up the university's emergency server off site.

"President Crow and [ASU] have been really in the vanguard in taking aggressive action in campus safety," he said.

A major problem with Arizona universities is that information about student mental health illnesses is not available to university officials, Goddard said.

"I think the University has an obligation to the greater community to know when someone has a mental illness that might cause [a violent act]," he said.

Seung-Hui Cho, the student responsible for the VT massacre last April that killed 32 people, had a history of mental illness that was not disclosed to his university.

While Goddard said the most important changes for campus safety need to be implemented on the university level, there are a few changes that have to be done at the state and federal level, he said.

Leah Hardesty, an ASU spokeswoman, said the University has an extensive critical incident communications plan already in place.

"ASU will respectfully review the report and work with Mr. Goddard's office to continue improving campus safety and security," she said in an e-mail.

ASU has many measures in place that had been recommended by the proposal, such as an anonymous tip hotline and a plan to test the University's emergency plan with a mock drill, among others, Hardesty said.

Goddard said ASU is headed in the right direction in campus security.

"ASU is one of the institutions that has taken this proposal seriously and taken some very constructive steps to improve campus security," he said.

Art history freshman Justin Smith said he rarely sees cops on campus.

"I'm in [a residence hall] too, so it would suck," Smith said about if a shooting were to happen.

Music theater and opera performance graduate student Kim Badger said she has never felt threatened during her two years at ASU.

"I feel really safe," Badger said. "I've heard about incidents, but I've never personally encountered anything."

Badger said while working for the registrar she has seen instances where a student was considered a threat.

"I felt like [ASU staff] took the proper steps to ensure the safety of the staff and students," she said.

Reach the reporter at: mculber@asu.edu.



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