Enhancing safety on campus:
Identifying, preventing and responding to violence
The tragic and highly publicized shootings at Montreal’s Dawson College and Virginia Tech within the last year have heightened awareness among all educational institutions of the critical importance of emergency preparedness and the necessity of fostering a campus culture in which all members share ownership for recognizing unacceptable behaviour and taking appropriate steps to intervene before it escalates into violence. On both these fronts, Western is playing a leadership role.
With regard to emergency preparedness, Western will be hosting its second live emergency planning exercise of the year on August 15, working in close partnership with the London Police Service. Larger in scope than the emergency exercise held January 3, the August 15 exercise will further test and strengthen our systems for responding quickly and effectively to acts of violence and other emergencies that put members of our campus community at risk.
Western has had emergency response systems in place for many years, and exercises such as these provide an opportunity for people from across campus to work together, put our plans to the test, and identify ways to improve them. Western’s leadership in this area is demonstrated by the fact that some 70 representatives from more than 20 Canadian universities and colleges will be on hand to observe the exercise and share in the learnings for improving campus safety.
With regard to fostering a safe campus culture, work is underway by the Safe Campus Community Committee to develop a policy and program that will help faculty and staff understand and play a more active and effective role in identifying potentially violent behaviour and preventing and responding to violence. This important initiative is being led by Campus Community Police Services and involves representatives from across the University.
After speaking with Elgin Austen, our Director of CCPS, it is very evident to me that building a safety-oriented culture is of equal importance to the work being done on emergency response and preparedness. As Elgin explains, early identification of volatile actions and proper intervention is the key to preventing unacceptable behaviour from escalating into violence. In other words, we all have a role to play in ensuring a safe campus, and the participation of all faculty and staff will be key to achieving this goal.
To engage faculty and staff more broadly in the Safe Campus Community initiative, it will be the subject of a Leaders Forum January 10, enabling wider discussion among Western leaders on creating a culture committed to violence prevention.