Families of Virginia Tech Victims Launch Campus Safety Organization
Group aims to help colleges identify and bridge gaps in student safety policies
The families of the 32 people killed in a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 have managed to create something positive out of an unspeakable tragedy. A new non-profit called 32 National Campus Safety Initiative (32 NCSI), a program of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, will work with colleges nationwide to assess their campus safety programs and policies and make improvements wherever necessary.
SafeBee caught up with director S. Daniel Carter to get his take on how the organization can make a difference on campuses and what students can do to improve their own safety at college.
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Q. How can your organization help college campuses stay safe, and from what?
A. 32 NCSI’s initial offering is a free, confidential campus safety self-assessment process addressing 9 key campus safety focus areas. It is designed to help institutions be introspective about where they are doing well, and if gaps are identified, work to bridge them. Future offerings are expected to include training, both online and in-person, and the ability to compare self-assessment results to aggregate data from other participants in similar demographic categories as well as additional focus areas such fire safety, study abroad and off-campus housing safety.
Q. You mentioned “self-assessments” for colleges. What do those help colleges measure, and what do you do with the results?
A. The 32 NCSI self-assessments are geared to help institutions evaluate their own policies and procedures based on best and promising practices identified by our expert advisors. The purpose is not to gather “results” but based on requests from our pilot participants we are exploring options to use aggregate data from demographically similar institutions to help participants see how other like schools have responded.
Q. Given that 32 NCSI is a result of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, are you focused mostly on gun violence? Or are you working to combat other safety threats as well?
A. 32 NCSI is focused on a full-spectrum of campus safety issues, and our threat assessment and emergency management modules take on an all-hazards approach that includes active shooters but also includes more common day-to-day campus safety challenges. The VTV Family Outreach Foundation families, staff and experts recruited quickly recognized that overall wellbeing on campus is the true key, and to foster this we must have a broad focus.
Q. 32 NCSI is fairly new, right? Are you working with any schools in particular yet, and if so, on what kind of initiatives?
A. 32 NCSI has been under development since 2012 and launched our new campus safety self-assessment process on August 13, 2015. We are currently working with about 100 institutions going through the process. The process is confidential, but five of our seven pilot institutions (that we worked with to validate the initial process) allowed us to recognize them for their assistance during our launch. They are the College of Charleston, George Mason University, Stephen F. Austin State University, the University of Florida and the University of Louisville.
Q. Do you have any tips for individual college students to keep themselves safe?
A. We don’t offer tips, but rather our initial offering for consumers is a set of basic questions drawn from our self-assessment process that go beyond asking about crime statistics or blue light emergency phones. Our goal is to empower students and their families to make informed decisions about their own safety on and around campus.