Safety task force makes changes on campus since armed student incident


Changes in campus safety have been implemented in the year following an incident involving an armed student on campus. Photo Credit: Jessica Bonacci

Briana Ryan

One year ago, Campus Safety evacuated the Center for Natural and Health Sciences after learning of the presence of an armed student on campus.

Since then, Marywood has implemented the Safety Implementation Task Force with the goal of updating protocols, planning emergency drills and conducting safety-related presentations.

The first measure taken by the task force was an active shooter drill for the Marywood community last December during winter break. The task force then conducted a campuswide active shooter drill last April.

Chief of Campus Safety Mike Pasqualicchio said there are no plans right now for an active shooter drill for the 2018-2019 school year.

“There definitely won’t be an active shooter drill for the fall semester,” said Pasqualicchio. “Right now we’re not sure if we’re going to do another active shooter drill next semester or another type like a weather emergency drill.”

During an investigation after the active shooter drill, The Wood Word discovered that out of 100 doors across campus, only 39 were able to be locked from the inside.

Since then, Safety Implementation Task Force Chair and Assistant Vice President for Buildings and Grounds Wendy Yankelitis said Campus Safety has been working with Buildings and Grounds to fix the doors that cannot be locked from the inside.

“We have been able to fix the locks on the doors in the [Liberal Arts Center],” said Yankelitis. “We’re trying to get them done as fast as we can but there have been some issues with older doors.”

Besides fixing the locks, Pasqualicchio said both departments have been looking into nightlocks, which are devices that can be put on the bottoms of doors to help secure them. Two have already been installed in the Liberal Arts Center (LAC). According to Pasqualicchio, the nightlocks are able to withstand a couple hundred pounds.

To help students prepare for the drill last April, Pasqualicchio held four presentations for students to learn more about what to do during an active shooter scenario. Only a total of 20 students attended the presentations.

“The presentations were not well attended last year because it’s hard to work with students’ schedules,” said Pasqualicchio. “Right now I’m mainly focused on getting as much information online as possible so that students can look into it at their leisure.”

However, Pasqualicchio said he will be hosting a presentation called “Stop the Bleed” on Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The presentation is for faculty and staff to learn about how to act if someone is severely bleeding.

Last year the task force began looking into the recommendation of arming campus safety officers. Yankelitis said she has reached out to other institutions who have implemented the procedure and arming campus safety officers remains just a discussion.

“I’ve reached out to a couple institutions and learned it actually takes a year or two once the decision is made to get people trained,” said Yankelitis. “It’s definitely on our radar, but right now we’re not ready to make any type of suggestion.”

Looking back on the armed student incident a year ago, Yankelitis said she believes it was handled well with areas in need of improvement.

“From a tactical standpoint it was handled exceptionally well. However, we learned that we needed to work on communication,” Yankelitis said.

According to a newsletter sent to families of undergraduate students last December, the university reviewed and updated the Emergency Action and Response Plan and the E2Campus messaging system to help strengthen communication.

Yankelitis said the new building signs around campus have also helped to strengthen communication with law enforcement.

“The incident on campus has helped us to get to know the local police better,” said Yankelitis. “Out of that relationship, the request was made that our updated building signs would also have the exact addresses of the buildings to make any sort response from law enforcement smoother.”

The charges against former student Alex Barowski were withdrawn without prejudice in June, meaning the case may be reopened in the future.

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Twitter: @BrianaRyanTWW