Seung-Hui Cho entered Norris Hall, chained the doors behind him, then proceeded to calmly and violently shoot and kill 30 Virginia Tech students in April, 2007. He had already murdered two students earlier that morning.
In the time since that brutal incident, universities around the country have improved campus security, including Washburn University. Washburn implemented an emergency alert system called I-Alert. It is designed to notify students by e-mail, text message and land line quickly in case of an emergency. Students who choose to participate in the system can sign up through their MyWashburn account.
The I-Alert system is one way of being informed about possible dangerous situations, but there are also some simple solutions that students can do on a daily basis to keep themselves out of harm’s way.
“There’s no replacement for knowing where you are and who is around you,” said Washburn University police chief Dean Forster. Forster said that there are some simple actions that students can take to insure that they stay safe, and that their property stays in their possession. In addition to being aware of their surroundings, he said that students should consider engraving their valuables like laptops, cell phones and iPods. The Washburn University Police Department has an engraver, which applies a unique identification number to valuable items. The WUPD also sponsors Operation Identification, a program that identifies and documents student property.
In case a student’s property does become lost, Forster said that students should always check with the lost and found in the police department.
“You would be surprised how much stuff is left unclaimed,” said Forster.
The WUPD office has recently finished renovation, which features a new communications system. Washburn also installed approximately 40 new cameras on campus over the summer, including some in elevators.
In addition to the I-Alert system and students being aware of their surroundings, Forster emphasized that the WUPD is in place to help students in a variety of situations such as jump-starting cars, opening locked car doors and escorting students to their vehicles. He also said that the help phones located throughout campus can be used for more than just emergencies, and encourages students to interact with officers on campus if they have inquiries.
“We want to be more than people walking around in uniform, I want people to engage the officers,” said Forster.
Student Sara Barnes said that the WUPD has helped her in the past when she locked her keys in her car.
“They were very helpful and patient with me even though I felt really embarrassed,” said Barnes.
“If they have a problem we’ll help, that’s what we’re here for,” said Forster.