April 29, 2013
To Members of the University Community,
I write to update you on the University's preliminary assessment of the emergency response to the incident in the Chafee Social Science Center on April 4, 2013. A post-incident team received feedback from the community and examined both the details of the incident and the response to it. In this memorandum, I'll provide a brief overview of findings and urge your continued feedback and ideas.
The police investigation concluded that no gun or active shooter had been located and that there never was any danger on campus. However, we are fully aware of and sensitive to the experiences of people during the incident and in the days that followed. We stand committed to providing all those impacted any necessary support. The safety of our community remains our highest priority.
This incident also provided to be very realistic tests of our emergency preparedness, response, and communications. The University is committed to a thorough and objective review of the incident and our response to it, and to identifying challenges and opportunities for improvement. While the rapid response and the cooperative actions by security personnel and the campus community were largely successful, the preliminary review has identified a series of improvements that will enhance our readiness and responsiveness to such incidents, if they occur in the future. I do wish to emphasize that the timely response and cooperation by URI, local, and state police was exemplary as were the many students, staff, and faculty who courageously and generously reached out to help others. I thank all of you for your efforts and contributions to the safety and vitality of our community.
Based on the feedback to date, improvements are focused in the following five areas:
- Public safety response to an emergency
- Education and training of the URI community
- Emergency notification (Alert) system
- Communicating with the URI community and the public
- Physical Security Program
The university has begun developing a plan for implementing improvements, including a preliminary set of recommendations that pertain to each of the five areas. Members of the community will have an opportunity to review the plan and recommendations and ask questions and offer input. We will continue to work with local and state officials on this plan to ensure a coordinated effort. Additionally, we are working with peer institutions to share information, best practices and ideas as part of this process. The University will continue to assess, review, educate and train in order to maintain a robust emergency response system.
A recommendation that has once again emerged during the post-incident assessment relates to arming the URI Police so that they can respond in a timely matter and ensure the safety and protection of the community and themselves. In situations that are truly threatening, a delay in responsiveness of minutes can be devastating. I am aware that opinion about this issue is mixed within our community. In order to ensure that all voices can be heard on this issue, the Offices of the President and Provost, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and the Student Senate will co-sponsor a campus forum on the issue of arming the URI Police on May 8 at 11 a.m. in the Atrium in the Memorial Union. Prior to the forum, we will make available the reports on this topic produced by the Government Relations Committee (2012) and one by the Campus Security Commission (2010), which was formed by the previous Board of Governors a few years ago, for you to read and carefully consider. Our desire is to have an informed dialogue about the issue during the forum. Our goal is NOT to attempt to reach consensus, but to assist our community in developing a thorough understanding of the issue and its implications.
The draft preliminary assessment report and recommendation associated with the April 4 incident on campus will be available from my website and also at our Alert page, www.uri.edu/news/alert by the end of this week. I urge you to read the report and offer your comments and ideas for consideration. If additional forums are needed to foster broader dialogue about approaches, strategies, or potential improvements, we will arrange for such meetings.
In the meantime, I thank the entire URI community for your patience, commitment, and courage during this recent time. The incident on our own campus, followed by the tragedy in Boston, should remind us all that, even in the safety of our own homes and rural communities, we must be vigilant, careful, and supportive of each other.
The recent incident on our campus represents a test of not only our emergency response procedures, but also our resolve to constantly improve all that we do to ensure the safety of our community and our freedom.
David M. Dooley