Robert Wild, S.J.
The heartbreaking tragedy at Virginia Tech this past spring reminds us that no college or university exists in a bubble. Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with the students, faculty and staff of that university as they continue to seek healing after their horrendous ordeal.
In light of such events, colleges and universities around the world, including Marquette, have been reexamining systems and procedures related to emergency planning, to campus security and, perhaps most importantly, to how students in trouble are identified and aided.
Marquette is fortunate in that it has long had a well-articulated critical incident management plan that outlines three levels of response. At the highest level of response, a crisis team with representatives from offices throughout campus would immediately assemble and work with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies. At every level our crisis plan calls for utilizing all available means of communication, including e-mail, the university Web site, university voice mail, Access TV message boards, postings in buildings and other tools as needed.
We also have an outstanding Department of Public Safety. Not only do these men and women patrol around the clock our campus and surrounding neighborhood, they also through their daily interactions work to develop a relationship of trust with our students, faculty and staff. This rapport and commitment of our Public Safety officers, coupled with their high level of professionalism and close working relationship with local law enforcement agencies, contributes immeasurably to the security of our campus community. In addition, Public Safety commanders have at their disposal in a crisis situation first-rate technology that includes an electronic system to lockdown instantaneously most academic buildings. Furthermore, this summer we will unveil a new command center equipped with cameras that allow us to monitor the campus area for suspicious activities. The front desks in our residence halls are staffed 24 hours a day, including, at night, by a Public Safety staff member; and at no time is anyone admitted to the residence halls without proper identification. We also offer students and staff a range of safety tools, including our Blue Light phone system and our LIMO escort vans. Needless to say, our students are routinely reminded to take advantage of these services and to practice common sense safety precautions.
Frankly, one of the challenges that all universities face is how they can best support and protect the students entrusted to their care, and Marquette is no exception. However, the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis or “care for the individual” provides us with greater freedom to build a campus environment that nurtures students in a holistic manner, intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Marquette students benefit from a faculty whose members are committed to serving them in and out of the classroom. Our University Ministry staff is first-rate and seriously committed to their mission, a key aspect of which is to make pastoral counseling available to students of all faith traditions. For example, in each of our residence halls there is a hall minister living among the students. As a further resource for students if and when they are troubled or lonely or overwhelmed with the demands of school, we provide here on campus a Counseling Center fully staffed by professionals.
Certainly many departments and offices collaborate daily to maintain the safe learning environment that supports our mission. But there is no magic way to provide absolute protection. In that way, a campus is certainly no different than the world around it. But we can, and we do, make every effort to be here for our students, to surround them with resources and with mentors they can trust, and to consider every moment for the opportunity it offers us to demonstrate even better our commitment to the well-being of the splendid young people who year after year enroll in large and enthusiastic numbers at this institution.