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Open Letter from President Shirley Raines to U of M Campus

Since the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech University, I have received a number of emails from people asking if counseling services are available to people very upset by the news and others asking me how safe we are at the University of Memphis.  They also have asked what can be done to prevent such a senseless tragedy.

University counseling services are, indeed, available to any member of the University community.  The staff of the Center for Counseling, Learning, and Testing have offices in Room 214 of Wilder Tower; they can be reached by phone at 901/678-2068 or by email at:  student@cc.memphis.edu  I encourage anyone who feels the need to speak with a counselor about this or any matter to contact the Counseling Center.

As to the prevention of crimes of any type at the University of Memphis, the first line of defense against such danger is vigilance and the taking of appropriate actions.  If anyone sees any situation or any person that raises concerns, University authorities should be contacted immediately. 

If a situation seems to pose immediate danger, the University Police should be called at 901/678-4357(HELP). 

If a student knows of a potential problem in a residence hall, Residence Life staff should be notified; they have been trained to take immediate and appropriate action. 

Faculty members and administrators are another source of assistance; if warned of a concern or a problem, they will know the appropriate measures to take.

Beyond relying on reports from faculty, staff, and students of real or potential dangers on campus, there are a number of actions the University has already taken or is in the process of taking to ensure the safety and security of the campus.  Our large and well-trained University Police force is composed of officers sanctioned by the State of Tennessee.  They have the same status as any Memphis police officer or Shelby County sheriff’s deputy.

There are 30 officers on our University Police force, and at any given time, a significant number of these officers are on continual patrol around the campus in vehicles, on bicycles, and on foot.  Some are in uniform, while others are in plain clothes.  Further, there is additional security at the McWherter Library, and at night, additional officers help secure campus buildings and patrol the perimeter of the campus.

The University has installed hundreds of cameras, some placed inside buildings, others situated outside to help the University Police keep a constant watch on parking areas, sidewalks, and building entrances, as well as many interior spaces.  In the two largest parking lots, on Central and on Southern, guard towers are manned by personnel who are in immediate contact with the University Police dispatcher.

University Police also maintain the Tiger Patrol, an escort service for persons wanting protection after dark; and emergency phone kiosks are located strategically around campus.  When any of these phones are lifted from the cradle, the call goes directly and immediately to the University Police dispatcher.

Our University Police are trained in crisis intervention, with specific training in dealing with persons who may be mentally disturbed and those who may be armed.  Additionally, we have decided that staff members, department chairs, deans, and central administrators will receive additional training on safety and security. 

A Crisis Management Team under the auspices of Charles Lee, the Vice President for Business and Finance, meets regularly and has created a Crisis Management Plan.  With that group, I am reviewing the Virginia Tech crisis and any concerns we may have for our campus.  In fact, the University’s current project to install an expanded outdoor public address and warning system on the main and Park Avenue campuses is a direct outgrowth of the work by the Crisis Management Team.  Also, improved communication, such as quicker emails and the greater use of cell phones, is being implemented by the University.

Although it is not always possible to prevent tragedies from happening, the University of Memphis recognizes the dangers present in today’s world, and we have taken significant steps to minimize such dangers on our campus.  We ask your help in this endeavor, and we ask that every member of the University of Memphis community report any suspicious behavior.  All incidents will be quickly and thoroughly investigated.

Your vigilance and care for your student, faculty, and staff colleagues are paramount.  We welcome any suggestions and recommendations for improvement of the campus’ safety and security.  Please feel free to contact me at:  president.uofm@memphis.edu

Shirley Raines, president

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Last updated: 03/19/2008 16:38:54
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