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March 24, 2008

IBHE Focuses On Campus Security

Task Force to brief Board on lessons learned, future steps

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to honor the loss and look to the future, the Illinois Board of Higher Education will hold a special briefing on campus security at its April 1 meeting at Illinois State University.

John Peters, President of Northern Illinois University, will make brief remarks to the Board expressing the university’s gratitude to the higher education community in the aftermath of the incident of February 14. His remarks will be followed by a briefing featuring a panel discussion of state experts on training, emergency response, violence prevention, and legal issues.

“We as a Board, and as a higher education community, want to pay our respects and honor the loss experienced by parents, students, and the NIU family,” Carrie J. Hightman, Chairwoman of the Board, said. “We want this to be a moment of remembrance while recognizing that we have a teachable moment as well, an opportunity to learn from the pain in ways that won’t make it go away, but can point us to the future.”

The Board, which meets at the Bone Center at ISU at 9 a.m. April 1, has lightened its work agenda to devote sufficient time for an extensive and thoughtful discussion of the tragic events of February 14 and measures the Campus Security Task Force (CSTF) has undertaken or may propose since its formation nearly a year ago. Governor Blagojevich convened the Task Force after a gunman took the lives of 32 students at Virginia Tech in April 2007.

The panel that also will include:

  • Mike Chamness, who helps lead the CSTF Response Committee and is Chairman of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force;
  • Lorrie Rickman-Jones, who is Director of the Division of Mental Health in the Illinois Department of Human Services;
  • Jennifer Welch, Policy Director for Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and
  • Ron Ellis, a retired inspector for the Illinois State Police who has conducted trainings for security personnel at schools, colleges and universities.

Chamness will discuss the activities of the Task Force’s Response Committee, including distribution of interoperable radios, all-hazards training sessions sponsored by the CSTF, guidance on emergency communications systems, and characteristics of model plans for confronting man-made or natural emergencies.

Rickman-Jones heads the Task Force committee on prevention and mental health services. She will discuss best practices and model programs for prevention and coping with campus violence, guidance on models for mental health awareness, and the results of a survey of colleges and universities regarding mental health services available to students.

Welch will relate the issues raised by state and federal statutes protecting student privacy and shielding healthcare information from disclosure as well as those related to emergency response and preparedness on campuses.

Ellis will brief Board members on six special all-hazards training seminars for college and university security personnel he conducted over the past several months, as well as one to be conducted on the afternoon of April 1 as part of the Homeland Security Conference being hosted by the Illinois Community College Board in Bloomington. Ellis also will discuss lessons learned from the Virginia Tech tragedy.

“Our concerns and compassion continue for President Peters and the entire NIU community, who have endured unimaginable emotional upheaval and pain,” Chairwoman Hightman said. “And we thank the representatives of various agencies for sharing their expertise and their thoughts about where we go from here to assure students, parents, faculty, and staff that they live and work in an environment that is as safe as we can possibly make it.”

“Board members also will hear a presentation from consultants on the Illinois Higher Education Public Agenda initiative. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) has undertaken research into the educational needs of Illinois and will update the Board on the major findings of the report and the next phase of the Public Agenda process.

“We are beginning to see real, tangible progress in this process,” Hightman said. “Already, with the Public Needs Report and the upcoming analysis of state policies, we are starting to get a sense of the value of assessing the condition of higher education in Illinois and the potential the planning process holds for making stronger connections between our college and universities and the state’s economic wellbeing.”

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