CAMPUS LIFE AND SAFETY AND SECURITY (CLASS) TASK FORCE 2008 Annual Report
Review and Evaluation of the Current Status of Campus Safety and Security on Oklahoma's Post-Secondary Campuses
A Self-Assessment of Campus Security and Vulnerability to Acts of Terrorism was conducted in 2007 and followed up in 2008. The heads of all private and public universities, community colleges and career technology centers were contacted to respond to questions concerning their readiness in the event of an emergency.
During 2008, the survey showed that institutions have a much broader array of technologies available to notify students than the 2007 survey indicated. In 2007, the survey revealed respondents relied much more heavily on e-mail, Web sites and blue phones. The 2008 survey indicates that more students now have more access to cell phones/pagers, texting, phone trees and radio announcements.
During 2008, survey respondents revealed that approximately 62 percent of campuses have plans for bomb threats and active shooters. Approximately 53 percent have plans for hazardous waste, 46 percent for terrorism and 32 percent for pandemic flu.
The development of institutional emergency plans in cooperation with local law enforcement has increased from 79 percent in the initial survey to 84 percent in the most recent survey. Eighty-four percent of campuses said that they review their emergency plan operations annually.
Approximately 57 percent of responding campuses indicated that they provide a copy of emergency plans to local emergency management operations, and 58 percent of respondents indicate that they have blueprints of buildings and building layouts on file with the local police and fire departments.
Seventy-nine percent of campuses indicate that they provide annual safety and security training to their faculty and staff, and approximately 78 percent of students are being trained.
The 2008 survey indicates that 47 percent of campuses provide a mental health recovery plan. In the initial survey, only 30 percent of campuses provided this service.
A strong majority of respondents, 79 percent, indicated that they have a crisis communications team in place to talk with media and parents.
Approximately 46 percent of respondents indicated that they have fire alarms and sprinklers in all campus buildings. Institutions with a photograph of each student on file rose from 58.3 percent during 2007 to 72 percent in 2008.
Thirty-nine percent of responding campuses indicated that they have a business continuity of operations plan in place. The business continuity plan includes names and positions of individuals who will take over certain key positions within the institution in the event of an emergency.
The 2008 survey reveals that 86 percent of institutions have emergency contact information on file for staff, faculty and facility managers.
CLASS Task Force funding surveys were sent to 73 higher education and career technology institutions, including 31 public higher education institutions, 13 private higher education institutions and 29 career technology centers. The response rate was 26 public institutions (84 percent), three private institutions (23 percent) and 19 career technology centers (66 percent).
Among responding institutions in the State System of Higher Education, $15.1 million was budgeted for security with an additional $3.1 million budgeted for mental health. Oklahoma’s career technology centers budgeted $2.25 million for security and $665,000 for mental health. The average per-student budget for security is $37.44. Budgeted mental health counseling services average $8.68 per student, for a total of $46.12 per student combined total. Among responding private institutions, $909,000 was budgeted for security, while $101,000 was allotted for mental health.
Although the survey response varied among the three subgroups, the overall response rate of 66 percent provided enough data to enable the task force to make funding recommendations.
Assuming that the state goal would be to provide $100 per student for security and mental health services, the total budget need would be an additional $35.3 million. These allocations should address the disparity in funding for mental health services as well as enhancing notification and response capacities.
To ensure increased funding would be provided in the most economic and efficient method, it is recommended that the total funding need be requested over a two-year period.
The first year’s request (FY10) would be for $16 million. This would provide immediate funding for campuses lacking mental health services and to campuses that have already conducted a review or analysis of unmet security measures and identified funding priorities.
The second year’s request (FY11) would include the remaining $19.3 million, provided that additional information be collected from campuses regarding current year budgets and ongoing reviews.
Review of Publicly Reported Incidents on Oklahoma's Campuses
During 2008, Oklahoma’s post-secondary campuses experienced incidents ranging from hazing to shootings. Following is a recap of the publicly reported incidents.
In February, police arrested a man in connection with threats that prompted lockdowns at schools across Comanche County and in Chickasha. Cameron University also was placed on high alert. The man was arrested on a complaint of a terrorist hoax. He claimed he wanted to use chemical bombs and guns at the schools.
In April, a Norman man was arrested for a March incident. The man posted fliers on the University of Oklahoma’s campus that read, in part, “On April 21, 2007, all operations at OU Norman will cease” and that the campus would become “Happy Nihilist University.” He was also accused of writing similar statements April 2 on campus sidewalks. He pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. He did not go to prison, but he was banned from campus.
Also in April, four members of Oklahoma State University Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing charges. They were sentenced in Payne County District Court to write a 1,250-word paper on hazing, pay a total of $3,755 in restitution and perform community service. The students were accused of beating a pledge so severely that his muscle was exposed. OSU banned the fraternity from campus for at least five years.
In May, charges were filed against a Rogers State University student who, in February, was accused of leaving a severed dog’s head at a woman’s doorstep and planning a campus massacre. While investigating the severed dog’s head incident, police questioned the neighbor of the woman. Detectives found “a very small amount of blood” on his car and in his apartment. After seeing “bizarre” writing on his wall, he was taken into custody. He later told detectives that he found the dog dead on the highway and took it to a park to severe its head with a stump splitter. He was arrested following a psychological evaluation and was arraigned in August on felony charges of planning/attempting/conspiring to perform an act of violence and outraging public decency, a misdemeanor. During the investigation, the man admitted that he planned to cut off the woman’s head and stick it in a friend’s freezer.
Also in May, a suspended University of Central Oklahoma student faced federal charges in connection with a hoax bomb threat at the university. The indictment states that the student called 911 and reported to the Edmond Police Department that he heard some men at a convenience store talking about blowing up UCO. After studying surveillance tapes, police and UCO administrators could not locate the student or the men he described on the tapes. Law enforcement officials later interviewed students who said the student made up the story to get out of class.
In October, an Oklahoma State University sorority was temporarily suspended during an alleged hazing investigation. Seventeen members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, including eight incoming members, were involved in an incident at an apartment near campus. No injuries were reported, and OSU did not involve police.
In November, four Langston University students were suspended in the wake of a campus shooting that sent another student to a hospital with a bullet wound to his shoulder. The shooter, a visitor to the Langston campus, was charged with possession of a firearm on school property.
In December 2008, an alleged kidnapping at Oklahoma City Community College turned out to be a hoax. Officers investigated the incident after someone in a campus parking lot reported seeing three people put a sack over a man’s head and force him into the trunk of a vehicle. A video showed the alleged abduction in progress. Police later concluded that there was no kidnapping and no one was in danger. The students involved in the incident could face disorderly conduct charges.
Recap of HB 2513 – Concealed Carry Bill
State Rep. Jason Murphey introduced a bill in January 2008 that would allow individuals who have a valid concealed handgun license to carry the handgun into any college property. The bill, introduced after six students were killed by a gunman at Northern Illinois University, would amend existing law that prohibits students from carrying handguns onto most college property to allow 21-year-olds to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
The bill was filed in February and later passed out of the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee by a 14-2 vote. The members of the committee made multiple suggestions for amendments to this legislation. Among the concerns, members were alarmed by the fact the legislation would allow an individual to carry a handgun to collegiate sporting events. Murphey later amended the legislation to allow students, faculty and other employees who are CLEET-certified, honorably discharged from the military or active military to carry a handgun onto college property with a valid concealed handgun license.
The CLASS Task Force took proactive steps concerning the bill. As it advanced to the Senate, a special meeting of the task force was called in March 2008. Representatives from higher education, law enforcement, veterans groups and the business community presented their concerns regarding the bill. In response, the task force drafted a resolution to oppose the legislation. The draft, which provided a background of the creation, purposes and work of the task force and details about the various groups opposing the bill and the reasons why, was unanimously approved. Some of the concerns cited include: HB 2513 could put thousands of people at greater risk; many of the individuals most affected by the measure oppose it; campus police undergo special training to prepare them for responding to security incidents, and the training referenced in HB 2513 may not be equal; the bill would create an added burden on campus law enforcement by causing them to differentiate between the “good guys and bad guys” in already stressful situations; guns are not allowed in many public/government buildings, so neither should they be allowed on college campuses; college campuses are typically safe places and the risk of an active shooter is minimal; and by following CLASS task force recommendations, campuses are better equipped to protect students, faculty, staff and visitors.
From the beginning, negative reaction to the legislation was strong, with opposition coming from the Council of Presidents, Student Advisory Board, the Career Technology system, law enforcement officials, parents of college students and the business community.
Tulsa World editorial writers spoke out in opposition of the bill on March 3, 2008: “Heaven forbid that Oklahoma see a Virginia Tech-type incident, but if it happens, police need to be able to respond without worrying about whether the gun-toting student they see is a good guy or a bad guy.” And on March 15, they wrote, “Campus gun bill better, still bad. The Senate needs to let this bad idea fade away into the sunset. Its time has not come.”
The Oklahoman editorial writers wrote on March 21, “We understand lawmakers want to protect students from high-profile shootings like the recent one in Illinois. But this bill is a knee-jerk reaction.” And a reader wrote on April 4, “Lawmakers should fight any attempt to revive this bill.”
In March, the bill advanced to the Senate but later died. It was revived again in April when Sen. Anthony Sykes filed a proposed floor amendment to HB 2606, authored by Rep. Pam Peterson and Sen. Randy Brogdon incorporating the handgun language of HB 2513. The bill was brought up for a vote in the Senate on April 10, but after Brogdon introduced the bill, Sen. Patrick Anderson moved to advance the bill without considering amendments, and that motion passed. The bill was voted out of the Senate without the handgun language attached, so the bill was never placed on the committee’s agenda, effectively killing the bill for the 2008 session.