Independent Panel Report Released, Implementation Task Force Named
Wednesday, November 30 2011
MOSCOW, Idaho – A report released today that analyzes safety and security at the University of Idaho concludes that the university has strong safety and security protocols in place, while at the same time makes several recommendations to strengthen the university’s current systems.
“In its review, the panel found the university’s safety and security protocols to be very complete and robust,” said Linda Copple Trout, former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court and member of the independent panel commissioned by University of Idaho President Duane Nellis. “I’m confident that the University of Idaho will fully consider our recommendations in the report as it moves forward to improve and strengthen existing protocols and communicate them to the university community.”
The panel’s report noted that the plans and procedures for campus safety and security “are complete, comprehensive and technically strong.” The report complimented the university for having “worked diligently to adopt policies and procedures, which have been mandated by legislation or recommended as best practices in the areas of personal safety for faculty, staff and students.”
With the release of the report, Nellis also announced the creation of a task force to review and implement the recommendations. Ron Smith, vice president for finance and administration, will chair the group, which will be expected to complete its work by the end of the academic year.
The panel made recommendations in three areas: emergency management, student safety, and faculty and staff safety.
Emergency management: The panel found that the university’s emergency management plan, while comprehensive and technically strong, is not user friendly. The panel recommended developing a “one-page synopsis of who to call and what to do” in an emergency. A laminated copy of the document would be made available to students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Student safety: The panel found that the university has good processes in place for responding to student safety concerns. However, the reviewers noted that information is spread across the university, with multiple “owners”, possibly making the information challenging to access quickly. The panel recommended the university’s Vandal Care program, which identifies students who may be distressed and connects them with appropriate resources, strengthen the way it communicates and shares information when working with individuals to ensure all those connected to a particular situation have comprehensive information at hand.
The panel also suggested strengthening the policy on physical abuse, hazing and harassment; and making the consensual relationship policy and the “timely warning” policy more prominent on the web.
Faculty and staff safety: The panel recommended reorganizing information on the web so campus safety and security policies and procedures are more prominent. It also suggested that the risk management office, or another single “owner” for campus safety and security, help build a more prominent and coordinated approach. It also suggested implementing background checks as a standard part of the hiring process.
“We are grateful to the independent review panel members for their thoughtful and thorough review of our safety protocols,” said Nellis. “Not only does the report in general affirm that the University of Idaho has appropriate systems in place to address the safety and security of our community, but also it provides some helpful observations and recommendations to make sure that our safe community is even safer.”
Nellis convened the independent review panel in the wake of the murder of graduate student Kathryn “Katy” Benoit in August by a former professor. Consistent with his earlier outlined actions, Nellis asked the panel to review and assess relevant safety and security policies and procedures as they relate to the safety of students, faculty and staff and to determine whether they meet or exceed “community standards” or “best practices” for similar institutions. He also asked the panel to outline recommendations for improvements.
In addition to Copple Trout, the review panel included Bob Duringer, vice president of administration and finance at the University of Montana; and Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs at Oregon State University. Gary Margolis, managing partner of Margolis and Healy, served as a consultant for the panel.
The full report is available online: www.uidaho.edu/panelreview
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu