Safety at Skidmore
Date: 18 April 2007
To: Members of the extended Skidmore community
From: Philip Glotzbach, President
The full scope of loss in the tragic episode of Monday, April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech University is now beginning to become clearer to us all. The members of the Skidmore College community join with others in expressing our heartfelt sympathy to those connected with this great university who will be dealing with the aftermath of this event for so long into the future. In our various roles of student, parent, member of the faculty or staff, alumnus or alumna, or trustee - all of us can relate to the profound grief experienced by those who have been directly affected. This most recent experience should remind us, once again, that those human qualities that bring us together are infinitely more important than those that divide us.
Over the coming days, legitimate questions will be asked about how not just Virginia Tech but all colleges and universities have prepared to deal with such an extreme threat to public safety. Let me offer some reassurance about our situation at Skidmore:
- Our Campus Safety operation is headed by Mr. Dennis Conway, a retired officer of the
New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Under his leadership, we
have (and have had for many years) a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan to deal
with a wide range of possible situations, from power outages due to severe weather
to the case of a violent intruder. This Plan is reviewed and updated regularly and
can be found on the Campus Safety web site.
- Skidmore personnel – most especially, those in Campus Safety - undergo regular training
in relation to the Emergency Plan. Specifically, Campus Safety personnel (17 of whom
are full-time and 12 are part-time) are unarmed and are instructed not to confront
someone with a weapon but rather to move others to safety. In such an event, the
Saratoga Springs police would be contacted immediately to take control of the situation.
Skidmore has agreements in place with external law enforcement agencies detailing
how they and we would respond to a major incident on our campus.
- All residence halls are locked 24-7, and the campus is equipped with 28 blue-light
emergency communications stations.
- Campus Safety personnel participate in simulated disaster response exercises, along
with state and local agencies.
- Representatives of Student Affairs, the Counseling Center, the Dean of Studies Office, and Campus Safety meet weekly to identify students who may be in need of assistance. The express purpose of this meeting is to attend to any possible warning signs. Residence hall staff members, especially, are trained to report indications of students for whom intervention would be appropriate.
This tragedy is just the latest in a series of events demonstrating that no college can afford to be complacent. We certainly will determine what more we can learn from the sad experience of Virginia Tech to bring our preparedness to an even higher level than it is at present. In fact, we had already undertaken a comprehensive review of our emergency procedures – including the question of how the College would communicate rapidly with our students, faculty, and staff should it become necessary to do so. We also need to consider carefully how our procedures can best be understood by all members of the campus community - so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. No doubt, we will identify ways to improve on the very good work that already has been done.
This is a time for reflection not only with regard to issues of safety and security but also, and even more importantly, about questions that go to the heart of the educational mission of colleges and universities throughout our country. I will offer some additional thoughts along these lines in due course.
For now, let me conclude by reiterating our deep sense of shared grief over an event that, by rights, never should have happened anywhere, least of all at an institution of higher learning.
Thank you for your attention.