Woodward, Okla. —
The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, has caused the nation to once again take pause and examine how we protect the students and employees at our schools.
At Northwestern, the security and safety of our students, employees and visitors is a paramount priority and the policies and procedures we have in place to prevent or react to a threat are constantly reviewed and strengthened when necessary.
Operating a university campus is much like operating a small city. We work with diverse populations, the vast majority of which are law-abiding citizens. But like any community, we also must be prepared to deal with crime on campus. While statistics will show that our campus is very safe, we recognize the need to be vigilant and prepared for any situation.
Northwestern operates a Crisis Management Team and a Threat Assessment Team to lead our security efforts. These teams include senior administrators, campus police, counselors and other staff members to address crime prevention, proper handling of any crimes that do occur and communication with students, employees and other stakeholders.
Northwestern also employs its own police force with certified officers. As a small university, our officers have the opportunity to develop relationships with students and gain their trust. This allows our officers to be more aware of any potential problems that could occur. While we employ a strategy of prevention, we do make it clear to students that we will not tolerate any criminal activity on campus and will work with local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to prosecute offenders.
Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech University, Northwestern took many steps to enhance security on campus, including restricting access to student residence halls, enhancing warning systems including electronic communications and sirens, conducting response exercises with local enforcement, implementing confidential tip lines, providing training for faculty and staff, and expanding counseling services.
In the coming weeks, there will be many ideas discussed by policymakers on ways to make our schools safer. While we welcome the discussion and look for positive ideas, I and my senior leadership team will continue to support the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education in its efforts to oppose any legislation that will lead to the proliferation of guns on college campuses.
Our schools deserve to be places of safety and security. Through diligence, awareness and action, we will work to continue to make Northwestern a safe place for students.
Janet Cunningham, Ed.D.