The push for increased campus security in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy reached Tallahassee today as the Florida Board of Governors voted unanimously in favor of a $3.5 million initiative aimed at making the state’s universities safer.
The proposal, an amendment to the BOG’s legislative budget request, is broken into two initiatives: $2 million in annually recurring funds to support the State
University System’s university police forces and a $1.5 million one-time lump sum for enhancing emergency alert systems on campuses across the state.
The recurring funds, could be used to hire and provide resources for 20-25 additional officers statewide, according to BOG Director of Communications Bill EdmondsThis translates to about two extra police officers per campus – support that University Police spokeswoman Meg Ross says her department could use.
USF is budgeted to employ 43 full-time officers, but currently has only 40. According to Ross, it is often the case that there are only four officers patrolling the campus – home to more than 35,000 students – at any given time.
“One or two extra officers would be a good start,” she said. “Extra officers would provide additional coverage for each patrol shift.”
If passed, the funds would also be used to buy equipment, such as cars, and to support training new officers.
As part of the response to the criticism faced by VT for a lack of communication with students during Monday’s emergency, the $1.5 million, one-time partition would be used to upgrade University emergency alert systems.
According to BOG Chancellor Mark Rosenberg, the new systems need to employ more than one method to grab students’ attention to be effective. Under the new plan, each university could utilize sirens and a public address system in coordination with e-mails and text messages.
“(New emergency communication systems) should be redundant – or duplicative – no single source notification system is sufficient.”
USF currently has a system in place for notifying students of emergencies through online announcements and e-mails, and is the only SUS institution with an emergency text messaging service already in place.This service, called MoBull Plus, is free to students, but is not currently mandatory. As of Wednesday, only about 5,000 students had registered for the service, which supplies emergency information via text message to their cellular phones.