April 18, 2007

CUPD Assesses Campus Safety

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Yesterday, several university officials hosted a media call-in where they discussed safety and security on the Cornell campus in the aftermath of Monday’s shooting at Virginia Polytechnical Institute. The participants were Curt Ostrander, chief of Cornell University Police, Greg Eells, director of counseling and psychological services for Gannett, Tim Marchall, director of mental health initiatives for Gannett and Tommy Bruce, vice president of University communications.
Although the tragedy in Virginia did not pose an immediate threat to Cornell’s safety, Eells said he had “some concerns” about the safety of all college campuses during this frightening time. “Traumas like this can make students’ own problems more clear to them,” he said.
“We have heightened the police presence around residential areas,” said Ostrander, “and we are being especially attentive to all of campus as well.”
Although the University is in a heightened state of security, according to Ostrander, anticipating the exact measures it would take if faced with a crisis situation similar to Virginia Tech’s is difficult, but confidently stated, “we have the plans and procedures in place to deal with situations like this,” he said.
“We would dispatch a multiple officer response,” he continued.
Ostrander said that the CUPD “assesses the campus every six months” to ensure its high level of safety for students. He also said that there are “training programs in place for resident hall directors on what to do in dangerous situations. We can track who enters and leaves the dorms, and can implement a lockdown if necessary,” he said.
This effort to maintain a high level of security on campus extends beyond police efforts. Eells emphasized a number of educational initiatives that involve “working with residence halls directors to identify students and reach out to students if they are struggling,” he said.
He could not outline the specific steps that a counselor would undertake when helping a student as he said such would have to be determined “on a case-by-case basis.” However, Ostrander emphasized that if students encounter a physical threat at any time, “they can receive information from the dispatch at any time.”
Bruce stressed, “student to student programs are extremely important on campus at times like this.” Although he is confident in the University’s ability to handle emergency situations, Ostrander said that Cornell’s large size does pose complications when faced with a situation that warrants a school-wide lockdown that would affect 250 major buildings and approximately 30,000 residents.
The last shooting that occurred at Cornell was on Sunday, Dec. 17, 1983 when 26-year-old Su Yong Kim of Queens, New York shot and killed two freshmen girls, Young H. Suh ’87 and Erin C. Nieswand ’87, roommates living in Low Rise 7. Kim was Suh’s ex-boyfriend. He arrived at Suh’s dorm at 11:30 on Saturday night, and Kim unwillingly agreed to see him.
After threatening Suh and other dorm residents in her room, Kim agreed to let everyone besides Suh and Nieswan leave the room. The residents immediately called the police, who said the shots were fired at about 11:50 p.m. He used a rifle with a silencer attached.
After murdering both women, Kim killed himself, according to an article in The Sun.