Safety & Awareness
|FROM:||Dana Mohler-Faria, President|
|DATE:||April 9, 2015|
|RE:||BSU’s Proactive Steps to Improve Safety, Awareness and Communication|
This has been a difficult time for all of us who call Bridgewater State University home. As we have done during other moments of challenge in our long history, we will work together and with a deep sense of mission to emerge from this moment in a better and stronger place. As we endeavor to do so, it is important for every member of our campus community to be aware that we have, over an extended period of time, made a series of significant investments in staff, programming, training and technology to improve campus safety, focus on the well being of all members of the community, and remain vigilant in the face of the kinds of threats facing large and diverse academic institutions throughout the United States. Many of these improvements have been shaped directly by the wealth of new guidance issued by both the White House and United States Department of Education over the past several years. At its most fundamental level, this guidance addresses the need to increase the reporting of crimes, allow victims and survivors greater autonomy and confidentiality throughout investigatory processes, and clarify the rights, responsibilities and resources pertaining to all members of a the community.
Bridgewater State University readily embraces the spirit of this guidance and has, in earnest, taken proactive steps over an extended period of time to not only make the campus safer but to readily encourage the reporting of crimes. While it may to some seem counterintuitive that a rise in the number of crimes reported may actually be indicative of a safer environment, we must remain focused on our continuing efforts to secure the campus, develop and revise core policies and protocols, directly address the national epidemic of sexual assaults on campuses, provide members of our community with proper training, and communicate in a prudent and timely way. We have been making steady advances along all of these fronts and a summary of our efforts appears below.
Lastly, it is important to remember that BSU is a community of educational leaders and we thrive on the activist spirit of our students and employees. It is these same qualities that invoke a sense of pride in being a part of the BSU community. We are a community that strives each and every day to promote justice and fight victimization of any kind, both on our campus and beyond, making it all the more painful when victimization occurs within our own community. All crimes, and especially those that involve sexual violence, impact too many people – either directly or indirectly – throughout the course of their lives. The events of this academic year, both on campus and across the country, may be wounding to individuals even if they are not directly involved. We encourage you to not face these issues in isolation, but to reach out and utilize available counseling and wellness resources.
Securing the Campus
- Ongoing: Since 1966, the institution has had a well-staffed and armed police department with full police authority on campus and throughout the Town of Bridgewater. All officers attend municipal police academy training and receive other forms of advanced training (including for active shooter scenarios); many are also certified EMTs. The department patrols the campus in police cruisers, on bikes and on horseback; it also owns and operates an ambulance.
- Fall 2013: Completed a 360-review of campus safety in conjunction with TSG Associates, an external consulting firm that previously advised the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.
- Spring 2014: Added resources to improve the operation of the campus safety van program for those traversing the campus and surrounding environs in the evening.
- Summer 2014: Hired an additional full-time officer for the BSU Police Department; added the equivalent of one additional full-time clinician in the Counseling Center.
- Fall 2014: Began conducting regular campus walk-throughs by facilities staff and members of the Student Government Association. These walk-throughs have resulted in an array of timely improvements with respect to lighting, placement and ease of use of emergency phones, and additional coverage by video surveillance. The next walk-through will occur on April 24.
- Spring 2015: Added an emergency button to the BSU student app for smartphones. Pressing the button immediately connects a student to the BSU Police.
- Spring 2015: Completing key changes to the layout and security systems of the Children’s Center to include: installation of full-coverage cameras (to augment those already installed in Fall 2014 to monitor the entrance and exterior playground); removal of a two-level play structure; and other structural changes to improve supervisory lines of sight.
- Fall 2015: Adding full-time, 24/7 security officer coverage at two additional residence halls (Pope and Scott Halls). Three residential areas (Shea/Durgin Halls, Woodward Hall and Great Hill Apartments) already have 24/7 security officer coverage and all student residences have evening coverage. In addition, all residence halls on campus have 24-hour, electronic card access.
Key Additions and Revisions of Policies and Protocols
- Fall 2013: Introduced and executed a new Background Check Policy requiring all full-time University personnel to undergo a criminal background check as a condition of hire. Personnel in high-risk areas (e.g. Children’s Center, University Police) have long been screened prior to being employed.
- Fall 2013: Revised and updated emergency management protocols following the 360-review of campus safety; prioritized longer-term improvements.
- Spring 2014: Began developing a Policy to Protect Minors and Prevent Abuse (approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2014). This policy addresses the protection and safety of minors involved in University programs and/or taking place on University property and establishes clear procedures for reporting known or suspected instances of abuse, neglect or injury. All current employees who have direct contact with children must undergo a criminal and sexual offender background check.
- Summer 2014: Began developing a new Sexual Violence Policy that went into effect in March 2015. This policy, which supplements the state university system’s Equal Opportunity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Plan, addressed key regulatory changes and the latest guidance from the US Department of Education. Now in full force, the policy created a formal administrative review board constituted by more than 35 trained faculty and staff throughout the institution.
- Summer 2014: Developed and utilized a revised sexual assault intake protocol that is more victim-friendly, allows for greater confidentiality, and more readily encourages reporting.
- Various: Incorporated all rights and responsibilities pertaining to each of these policies (Policy to Protect Minors and Prevent Abuse, Sexual Violence Policy, Background Check Policy) into relevant sections of the Student and Employee Handbooks.
Sexual Assault Prevention
- Ongoing: BSU has a highly trained Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator and the University is currently seeking to hire an additional EO/Title IX investigator. This unit comes under the purview of a newly hired general counsel (hired February 2014, the first time the institution has had in-house counsel) who can offer more specialized legal guidance.
- Summer 2014: Distributed a sexual assault resource and identification printed guide to all students and employees. Also launched (Spring 2015) a new user-friendly web site devoted exclusively to sexual assault and relationship violence. Both resources detail ways of getting immediate help, interim and protective measures, and other matters pertaining to confidentiality and reporting.
- Spring 2014: Implemented bystander intervention training program. Collaborated with Bringing in the Bystander, a nationally recognized program that trained 23 on-campus staff trainers. Since receiving their training, our trainers have facilitated the program for more than 130 students.
- Spring 2014: Developed a strong partnership with Health Imperatives, a Brockton-based non-profit agency, to bolster the University’s resources specific to crisis intervention and prevention.
- Summer 2014: Mandated that all incoming students participated in “Speak About It” as part of their introduction to the University. “Speak About It” is a performance-based awareness and prevention program about sexual violence delivered by external experts and focusing specifically on young adult populations.
- Fall 2014: Convened the Presidential Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention, a 28-member group that included faculty, students, staff and parents. The Task Force, co-chaired by the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Secretary of the Board of Trustees, submitted its report in January 2015 and proposed a comprehensive slate of recommendations that have already either been implemented or are in late stages of planning.
- Spring 2015: Deployed Haven, an online sexual assault prevention and awareness program, to all students. As part of the training, students are offered specialized tips for prevention, an overview of the law (as well as their legal rights and responsibilities under the law), an understanding of the investigatory process, and a summary of resources readily available to them.
- Spring 2015: Launched “It’s On Us,” an awareness campaign featuring videos of students and staff addressing the community on the importance of sexual assault prevention. Additionally, a prominent faculty member hosted an “It’s On Us” event for students and employees. Finalizing plans for a Spring 2015 launch of the “Bear the Responsibility” poster campaign.
Key Trainings for University Personnel
- Fall 2014: General Counsel and Title IX Coordinator completed targeted Title IX training for high-priority personnel (e.g. resident assistants, security officers, residence life staff, athletics staff, academic deans and department chairs, members of the President’s Cabinet). The University’s outside counsel (Rubin and Rudman) also completed, in Spring 2015, specialized training for all employees constituting the Title IX administrative review board and otherwise involved in the grievance procedure.
- Summer 2014: Completed Clery Act crime reporting training for all University front line staff. D. Stafford and Associates, a nationally recognized group of experts, administered this training.
- Spring 2015: Mandated all University personnel to complete Haven training (online training platform; see above) by the conclusion of the Spring 2015 semester.
- Ongoing: In accordance with the federal Clery Law governing the reporting of crimes on campus, BSU annually reports all campus crimes to the US Department of Education. The University’s annual Clery Report is publicly available via link on the University’s main website. Incidents that require timely notification to the campus community are communicated via, at minimum, an email-based campus safety alert.
- Ongoing: All BSU students are required (and employees strongly encouraged) to provide emergency cell phone/text information. In the case of significant, imminent danger to the community (i.e. a “red alert”), the University has the capability to quickly transmit emergency messages to all who have provided such information. The University has also installed a loudspeaker system that can be heard throughout the entire campus. Lastly, the University has the ability to instantaneously lock all exterior doors through an electronic switching system operated by University Police.
- Fall 2014: In an effort to improve timely communications and raise awareness of other critical safety issues (including those not specifically covered by the Clery Act), the University developed and implemented a “yellow alert” notification system. Over the past year, the University has issued, on average and varying based upon circumstance, one yellow or red alert per month to notify members of the campus community of critical information.