Task force suggests more security

A seven-member task force of University administrators suggested the installation of electronic locking devices and upgrading the fire and intrusion alarm systems as part of the second review of campus safety, mental health and violence prevention at GW.

The Committee on Campus Safety and Security made 12 major recommendations, including improving the Office of Parent Services response to inquiries about emergencies, and sending GW Alert to all University and student-owned computers.

The special leadership group assessed the earlier recommendations made in November by two larger committees, one focused on campus safety and security, and another on mental health and violence prevention.

“I am particularly pleased to note that both the individual components as well as the wider community issues have been incorporated into (the presidential task force’s) findings,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, in a summary of the task force’s report.

The two committees were initially formed by University President Steven Knapp in September 2007 after last April’s tragedy at Virginia Tech. Both evaluated GW’s current security and crisis management policies.

The two committees initially looked at 101 recommendations from Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia that were relevant to GW.

“In many cases it was concluded that the University already had in place comprehensive measures; hence, no further study was deemed necessary,” Chernak said in the summary.

The Committee on Mental Health and Violence Prevention also looked at recommendations from Virginia Tech and concluded that “GW has in place very good policies and procedures to address mental health emergencies and violence prevention, and that these policies and procedures work well,” according to the report summary.

The committee made nine recommendations including standardizing GW’s medical and mental health services and treatments, improving information gathering and handling of “high-risk” individuals and possibly creating an amendment or clarification to the D.C. mental health law.

While some security measures – such as improving the GW Alert system – may be put into action right away, other recommendations may require more research and more time to implement, Chernak wrote in the report’s summary.

“The George Washington University has established comprehensive public safety and emergency management policies and procedures that have been used as models by other institutions,” said University President Steven Knapp in an earlier news release. “Still, the process of reviewing and refining these operations is ongoing as we continue to be guided by recent events, news recommendations, and best practices.”

Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said Knapp will provide his comments on the report this week.

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