“We’d rather err on the side of caution;” timely warning raises questions about campus safety protocol

The Campus Public Safety Office released a campus-wide timely warning on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The issued statement warned of a security threat regarding Asish Nand Sharma, a suspect in a domestic dispute.

“Mr. SHARMA currently has a warrant for his arrest and faces additional charges related to an assault occurring on campus,” said the warning released Wednesday. “It has also been reported that he was made [sic] threats to shoot the assault victim and law enforcement.”

“That came out of a domestic dispute,” said Scott Ghallager, Director of Communications for PSU. “That victim is a student and currently lives on campus. So in an over-abundance of caution… we sent a timely warning.”

According to Ghallagher, the warning was issued in favor of a PSU Alert because alerts are distributed in the event of an immediate emergency.

A 2013 task force designated by President Wiewel has acknowledged that PSU can improve transparency and consistency in emergency preparation and knowledge.

“A campus-wide ‘emergency-notification’ will be issued if a situation is an immediate threat to the community,” states a final report from the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety. “These notifications are issued through a variety of communication methods including text messages, email and local media outlets. A ‘timely warning’ alert is issued when a situation represents a serious or continuing threat to students and employees.”

The report also states that the current alert system can, “make people more concerned when there is no follow up [sic].”

The requirement for issued security threats comes from the Clery Act, a consumer protection law passed in 1990. The legislation requires all colleges and universities receiving federal funding to share information about crime on campus; this also includes timely dissemination of warnings and emergency notifications as outlined by university policies. (Source: Clery Center for Security on Campus)

Any student information included in security notices is protected by privacy laws detailed in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The mandated notices are sent to all PDX email accounts; additional accounts and phones must be opted-in through students’ Banweb accounts.

Wednesday’s emailed warning also included a photo of Sharma and a description.

“Police had a warrant out for his arrest,” said Chris Broderick, Associate Vice President for Communications at PSU. “That’s why we sent out the picture, too, to try to aid in arresting him.”

“Safety is our priority at the university,” Ghallager said. “We’d rather err on the side of caution than not.”

At the time of print, Sharma was still at large.

“If he’s arrested, there will be a follow-up on [the warning],” Broderick said.

If you have any significant concerns about your immediate personal safety, please notify law enforcement officials by calling 911. If you have any non-emergency questions regarding the timely notice, please contact PSU’s Campus Public Safety at 503.725.4407.