Response to Campus Violence
The tragedy at Virginia Tech was a watershed moment for higher education. Although the 2007 shootings took place miles away from UW–Madison, the events there spurred important changes in detection, prevention, warnings and response capabilities.
Numerous UW–Madison units have reviewed and revised their operations to protect the campus community from a similar event. However, it is also important to remember that there are no guarantees, and even the best planning can be ineffective against someone determined to cause violence.
The best response to any threat is to prevent it from ever coming to fruition. One of the best ways to learn of and prevent a threat is through extensive communication among administrators and members of the campus community. In this way, troubled individuals can get the resources and support they need to be successful members of the community, and in some cases, university officials can make an informed assessment of their behaviors.
Even prior to Virginia Tech, UW–Madison had a multidisciplinary team in place to intervene in cases of troubled and disruptive students. The team members are from units likely to be aware of such students and are led by the Offices of the Dean of Students.
A higher-level team, known as the Threat Assessment and Response Team, has been formed to deal with violent behavior or violent threats of students, staff or people not affiliated with campus. To respect privacy, the group does not publicize individuals who come to the attention of the team.
However, if there is a significant credible threat to the campus or a portion of the campus, legal and protective measures may be taken and information will be shared with campus regarding the threat and possible crime prevention steps.
It is vitally important for students, faculty and staff to play a role in campus security. Be aware of the signs of a person in crisis who might be displaying behaviors that could include chronic depression or mood swings, perceptions of injustice, isolating behavior or hostility or frequent allusions to violence.
If you observe potential risks or have a safety concern, please contact UWPD at (608) 264-2677 or 911.
For more information, see:
- Letter from Dean of Students Lori Berquam
- UWPD: The Virginia Tech Incident
- News Release: Virginia Tech Tragedy Spurs UW–Madison Focus On Prevention
- UW System President’s Commission on University Security (PDF)
- Resources for Dealing With Troubled People (PDF)
At work, in class and in residential areas, some people in distress may turn personal problems into disruptive, violent actions. Whether this behavior presents a major threat or simply makes others uncomfortable, these campus resources can help identify and prevent crisis situations before they escalate.