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October 29, 2015

Pitt reviews safety on campus

The University is revisiting its own preparations in light of a trio of deadly shootings on college campuses.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher responded to three recent incidents of gun violence elsewhere with a call for the Pitt community to be aware and prepared.

“It was hard not to be shocked in the last couple of weeks with the news from Oregon, Mississippi and Arizona,” Gallagher said, referencing three recent incidents:

• A Sept. 14 shooting in which a Delta State University instructor shot his live-in girlfriend, then killed a history faculty member in an office on the school’s Cleveland, Mississippi, campus before turning the gun on himself;

• An Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that killed 10 people, including the gunman, and injured nine others;

• An Oct. 9 shooting at Northern Arizona University that left one fraternity member dead and three others wounded when a freshman opened fire. The shooter is charged with murder and aggravated assault.

“Obviously it’s a tragedy that nobody wants to see. It’s just not something that you expect to be part of campus life. I can’t imagine the sorrow of the families that are dealing with this,” Gallagher said.

“The reality is: This can happen,” he said in an Oct. 14 report to Senate Council in which he encouraged members of the University community to reacquaint themselves with campus safety policies.

“The Pitt police are focused on this a lot,” he said, citing the Pitt police’s response to a 2012 active shooter incident at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in which a UPMC employee was killed and five others were wounded before a Pitt police sergeant shot and killed the gunman. (See April 5, 2012, University Times.)

“The best thing we can do is be prepared,” Gallagher told the council. “We really want to make sure the University of Pittsburgh campuses are thinking about this ahead of time.”

Ongoing preparation includes detail planning in Pitt’s safety and first responder community; support provided by the University’s health and counseling services, and faculty and staff awareness and emergency training.

“I just wanted you to be aware that we are looking at all of those things again and if there’s any specific areas where we strengthen and improve those, I will certainly share that with the community,” Gallagher said.

“I do encourage everyone to play a role. Be aware of these policies: Our site has all of this information there. It’s probably not at the top of everyone’s agenda to be looking at that, but when something’s happening it’s too late to become aware.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow   

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 5

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