The Johns Hopkins University / March 27, 1997
The Committee on Campus Violence was established in June of 1996 by Interim President Daniel Nathans in the aftermath of a tragic incident of campus violence at Johns Hopkins University in which sophomore student Rex Chao was fatally shot on the Homewood campus. President Nathans thought it critical to examine the University's policies, procedures, and programs to determine if any steps could be taken to minimize the possibility that such senseless violence would ever again claim one of the University's own.
Under the leadership of Provost Steven Knapp, a group of fourteen administrators, faculty, and students has evaluated the University's preparedness and developed recommendations for actions to strengthen the University's ability to avert future incidents of campus violence. The Committee's membership includes several faculty whose own fields of expertise and research activity relate directly to the issue of campus violence. From July through February, the Committee met on the average of twice monthly. The Committee reviewed literature on several relevant topics and found a number of helpful resources located on the Internet, such as professional list serves maintained by student affairs administrators. The Director of the Center for Campus Violence at Towson State University, Dr. Dorothy Siegel, met with the Committee and, at its invitation, offered a valuable critique of preliminary recommendations.
The Committee conducted a survey of practices and experiences at other universities. Two separate questionnaires were distributed, one to the chief student affairs officers, and one to the chief human resources officers at a number of peer institutions. Completed surveys were returned from thirteen universities. The summaries of those results appear in appendices A and B.
Because of a pending criminal trial, the Committee could not address certain issues relating directly to the Chao incident. The committee, instead, focused their efforts on a careful review of the general issues of campus violence, an assessment of the University's extant policies and programs, and a consideration of the merits of developing new procedures and programs.
While the Committee's charge was to address both student and staff issues, its discussions tended to focus more often on students. Attention to staff issues may yet be needed in the future, but it was the Committee's sense that the University's policies with regard to employees are generally uniform across the divisions and include proactive Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP) policies concerning violence in the work place. In contrast, there is considerable variation at Johns Hopkins in matters dealing with students and a need for comprehensive programs and procedures similar to those already in place for University staff.
The Committee also recognizes that its focus on campus violence leaves unaddressed the far more clear and present danger of safety and security threats emanating from outside the Hopkins community. As the regular campus security reports make clear, despite impressive efforts by campus security officers, Johns Hopkins is not isolated from the crime that is a distressing fact of life in Baltimore. It is much less likely that violence will arise from members of the University community. While the Committee's report recommends steps that should be taken to reduce the possibility of violence arising from within the Hopkins community, the protection of the campus from criminals must nonetheless continue to be a top priority.
In formulating its recommendations, the Committee was frequently reminded of the educational pluralism of the University that makes it difficult to generalize about current policies and practices and that frequently renders single solutions impractical. Differences in each of the schools, in terms of the character of the student bodies, the academic programs, and even the physical environment, necessitate the crafting of solutions that take these variations into account. Many of the Committee's proposals will require, therefore, subsequent review by the relevant administrators in each of the divisions and tailoring to these different contexts. The Committee's recommendations thus are not meant to be prescriptive, but rather to point to those areas where actions should be taken and procedures put in place consistent with the spirit of the committee's proposals, if not the specific details of the models offered.
Before turning to the Committee's recommendations, some comments about campus violence from a national perspective are in order, as is a closer look at the situation at Johns Hopkins.
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