Administration, task force takes action after armed student incident

Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico formed the Safety Implementation Task Force following last month’s incident on campus.


Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci

Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico formed the Safety Implementation Task Force following last month’s incident on campus.

Brooke Williams, News Editor

After last month’s incident with an armed student on campus, Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D formed a task force centered around safety and emergency response.

The incident involved 28-year-old Alex Barowski, whom police arrested on Oct. 4 after another student reported that he had a weapon on campus. There was confusion on campus during the situation since the community received an e2Campus text alert after the incident was resolved, but not while it was unfolding.

Additionally, mixed messages from law enforcement and people communicating what was happening through their phones during the incident contributed to the confusion, Persico said during a public meeting held two days after the incident.

The Safety Implementation Task Force, which consists of people from different areas of campus, has been meeting to take action on some of the plans laid out during Persico’s public meeting, such as planning emergency training and drills and updating the university’s emergency plan.

Persico said since the incident, many people have made suggestions.

“I have forwarded all of those suggestions to this committee and they’re going to take every single one of those suggestions that people made into consideration and develop a response to them,” she said.

The group has reviewed the university’s emergency crisis plan to see what is still viable and what needs to be changed, according to task force member and Public Relations Director Juneann Greco.

Persico said during October’s public meeting she had previously announced earlier in the semester that a task force would review Marywood’s emergency policies. She said this task force has been collapsed with the Safety Implementation Task Force.

The emergency action and response plan on the MarywoodYou portal has not been updated since February 2011. Persico said after the task force reviews and updates the plan, they will pass it on to the Safety Committee, a standing committee that was already active before the incident, who will keep it updated moving forward. The committee meets at least once a month, according to the Marywood website.

There is also an emergency drill planned for Dec. 18 around noon in the Learning Commons, Persico said.

“We’re aware that that’s a time where students will probably be home for Christmas break already, and when the faculty will most likely have turned in their grades and won’t be on campus, but the SWAT team wants us to do it anyway, kind of as a drill to set up further drills,” Persico said.

Greco said there will be a training session on Dec. 18 before the drill, and students who are able to come are encouraged to participate.

Persico said in the new year, everyone on campus will be informed in advance of another drill that involves the campus community.

Additionally, Greco said the task force has reviewed the e2Campus notification system to see what more can be done with it. They also compared it to other notification systems to see if it is equal or better.

She also said they are exploring ways to secure the campus in an emergency.

“We’re seeing how best to secure the campus whether it be building by building… and identifying safety locations where you can send people to go,” Greco said.

Persico said it would be important to appoint a captain in every building, which has happened in the past.

“In case people need to be reminded of that, we would reassign those positions to make sure everyone knows what to do in every building,” Persico explained. “It’s not just a campus-wide response, but it’s a building-by-building response that we want to make sure happens.”

Greco said she believes the task force has made progress.

“I think it’s moving along very quickly,” she said. “It’s evident by the fact that even now, that exercise is really now three weeks away and so that happened quickly, we arranged it quickly, we’re moving toward it quickly.”

Other actions outlined in October’s meeting have been completed or remain in progress, Persico said.

She said a group of Marywood faculty, staff and administrators conducted an in-depth analysis of the incident, which produced ideas to consider when forming the Safety Implementation Task Force.

Additionally, Persico discussed with attendees of October’s public meeting creating an integrative protocol with local law enforcement.

“I would say it has been done and it continues to be in the works. We’ve talked with each other, the local authorities and the university, but we have agreed to continue talking to each other and updating each other as things come up,” she said.

She also discussed fixing broken locks and updating signs on campus at the October public meeting. She described this action as “systematic” and said it will be carried out primarily by the Buildings and Grounds department.

Persico said now that everyone is attuned to what could have happened in the incident, people on campus feel grateful and want to make sure nothing similar will happen in the future.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on campus who isn’t committed to making this better,” she said.

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