In light of the recent Arizona shooting, colleges across the United States are rethinking campus security when it comes to potentially dangerous students.
VANGUARD EDITORIAL: Who you gonna call?
In light of the recent Arizona shooting, colleges across the United States are rethinking campus security when it comes to potentially dangerous students. Here at Portland State, the stabbing of Andrew Richardson by fellow student Heath Avery last summer prompted such a discussion.
Perhaps what makes events such as these most alarming is the question of whether or not they could have been prevented. Though this question may never be answered, one thing is certain—colleges should have clear methods of handling such cases, no mater how unlikely they seem.
A university’s authority in these matters, however, is dubious at best. With strict student privacy rights, campuses have little room to maneuver in these situations. Students that are exhibiting disturbing behavior, such as Jared L. Loughner did at Pima Community College (PCC), cannot be forced into psychiatric treatment. Thus, PCC utilized the only tool it had: expulsion. But that didn’t stop him from later killing six people.
Similarly, in 2007 students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute had reported Seung-Hui Cho’s disturbing and anti-social behavior before going on a shooting spree that killed 33 people, including himself.
Here at PSU, local media outlets have scrutinized the university’s handling of last summer’s stabbing. According to The Oregonian, three reports concerning Avery had been filed with Campus Public Safety Office prior to the day he attacked Richardson with a knife outside of Montgomery Court (“PSU student who was stabbed by another student questions rather university did enough,” Jan. 14).
As reported in the Vanguard, both Richardson and his attorney believe that Avery’s mental state played a factor in the stabbing (“Former PSU student sentenced to three years in prison,” Jan. 14). This leaves many to wonder: Did the university utilize its resources and reach out to Avery, or did it let him slip through the system’s cracks?
PSU’s Coordination Assessment Response Education (CARE) team is supposed to respond to reports of disruptive, and potentially dangerous, behavior and provide outreach services to these students. Additionally, the Center for Student Health and Counseling offers mental health treatment and crisis services to students. But how many students—especially those living off-campus—know about these support lines, or which one is best to contact?
The Dean of Student Life’s website contains information regarding CARE, but it doesn’t offer any contacts, resources or detailed information as to how it operates. The only concrete information offered is the phone numbers for SHAC and campus security. While it advertises itself as a resource, it is unclear whether CARE has any substance or impact on campus.
In order to avoid such incidents in the future, the university must reach out to students—both those in question and those bearing concerns—and offer them the appropriate services. In Avery’s case, PSU’s administration should have intervened after the first concerned student filed a report against him.
CARE is supposed to operate through intervention, and should be one of the most direct routes PSU has to help potentially at-risk students that might pose a threat to themselves or others. However, its services are voluntary, so its preventive abilities are hindered.
PSU needs to provide students with an unambiguous route to an authority that can handle reports of potentially threatening students, rather than going through campus security. From there, this authority should determine the best course of action, whether it is through counseling, disciplinary action or through
Virginia Vickery Editor-in-Chief Corie Charnley News Editor
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