Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will implement an enhanced-911 phone system and will appoint a Behavioral Assessment and Response Council to provide professional behavior assessment of persons posing potential problems on campus, President Michael F. Adams said today. These were the two top recommendations put forward by study committees Adams appointed to assess campus security readiness in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy earlier this year.
The committee on Emergency Preparedness and Communications (EPCC) was chaired by Kathy Pharr, assistant vice president for finance and administration. The committee on Evaluation of Psychological Services Protocols (EPSPC) was chaired by Lonnie T. Brown Jr., associate professor of law. Both committees submitted their final recommendations to Adams on Sept. 4.
In reacting to the committee reports, Adams praised the work of both groups. “These members of the university community deserve our thanks for their diligence in examining these important issues,” he said. “They were charged with bringing recommendations and have been very thorough and thoughtful in doing so.” Saying he found wide agreement with the points in the two reports, Adams said he would prioritize resources to those points that could make the most difference for UGA.
Adams said the EPCC’s top recommendation to deploy both enhanced and reverse 911 systems on campus will be implemented as part of a new telephone system. Due to an outdated campus telephone system planned for replacement within two years, UGA is without 911 service.
Likewise, he said he will ask the university Cabinet to implement as policy the committee’s recommendation that all faculty, staff and students be required to be enrolled in the new UGAAlert system, but giving them the option to opt out. The system can notify every enrolled person by telephone, e-mail or text message within a matter of minutes. UGA’s experience with the UGAAlert system, which has been under development here since last year, was reported nationally in the days following the Virginia Tech tragedy.
“We agree with the committee’s proposal that every student, faculty and staff member should be a part of UGAAlert for their own personal safety, but we also agree with its recommendation that those who wish to opt out of participation should be allowed to do so,” Adams said. “It is our hope that the overwhelming majority of the university community will find the service to be valuable personal protection and will choose to be a part of it.”
The president agreed with the committee that increases in police officer pay are necessary to improve recruitment and retention, and that additional training is advisable. He said that will be a part of future budget proposals.
The president also agreed with the committee that the exterior doors on every building should be assessed and hardware replaced so that the buildings could not be chained shut by someone intent on inflicting harm. Appropriate door-lock systems on all doors will be coordinated into all new construction. He likewise accepted the committee’s recommendation that each building have a building safety and security representative to be a 24/7 contact, trained in the National Incident Management System. All administrators at department head level or above also will be required to undergo NIMS training.
A proposal to install LED sign boards around campus will be implemented as funds become available, but a plan to install public address speakers both indoors and outdoors across campus was not adopted due to a variety of factors. However, the president noted the committee recommendation to explore emerging technologies, such as those associated with voice-over IP, which integrates voice and data systems into one network, which potentially could achieve the result of a campus-wide public address system.
While endorsing the EPSPC’s recommendation to appoint a Behavioral Assessment and Response Council and to establish a program to train faculty and staff to recognize potential psychological problems, Adams did not support the proposal to designate two Behavioral Assessment and Response Council representatives per campus unit, saying that may be asking faculty and staff to perform duties for which they are not qualified. He agreed with the proposal to establish a policy of involuntary leave for students when psychological problems are identified that might pose a threat to the community.
The president endorsed the proposal to increase the number of licensed psychologists employed by Counseling and Psychiatric Services by two each of the next two years and the proposal to change the unit’s name to one that is more inviting and less stigmatizing to those who seek those services. As part of the response, Adams asked the unit to review its protocols for limiting the number of visits allowed per person before being referred to private professional help and also to explore methods that allow for pre-screening and self-assessments.
He did not approve the proposal to establish a separate counseling service for under-represented populations, believing those facing psychological problems will be identified at the professional counseling level regardless of their minority status.
He also declined to endorse a proposal to change rules on release of medical records and to seek amendment of state open records laws to provide limited exceptions on behavioral concerns, because such would tend to identify individuals simply by the nature of the exception claimed.
Other proposals will remain under consideration as funding and opportunities for implementation present themselves within the university’s other competing priorities, Adams said.