Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Running with Scissors

Nov. 3: Worth noting that recent on-campus "incidents" (unreported here as of yet, but officially called "incidents," as in the benign-sounding "unusual incident report") have shown that there appears to be a serious problem regarding policy, practice and workplace safety.

In particular, some observe that the campus Student Code of Conduct combined with the Unusual Incident Reports protocol has limited effect when a student is unable to comprehend the policy. This is a catch-22 which bodes awful, leading in the very worst circumstance to one of those potentially tragic "we didn't see it coming…except we did" post-tragedy institutional mea culpas but with no real way, to be fair, to have done anything to fix it anyway.

Indeed, the ritual invocation of a policy and the filing of a report may create a dangerous sense of unjustified safety, when it is not frustrating everybody involved. Again, reciting a policy which a student doesn't understand (cannot understand) and filing a report (future evidence of nothing, finally, except inaction) amounts to building a thick file which will, after a tragically "unusual" incident cause everybody to shake their heads, scratch their heads and, uselessly, butt heads – institutional officials forced to defend themselves and victims still left defenseless or worse, lawsuits flyin' – with the problem still left unaddressed.
A quick consultation with colleagues at other institutions reveals a range of responses. Some schools are very proactive while others seem to struggle with situations that resemble ours. The wide range of practice suggests awareness of a problem. But it is not enough to be aware at this point.

One intrepid colleague suggests filing restraining orders and assault charges with outside agencies – thus going above the institution's head, so to speak, in order to ensure physical safety when the institution is unresponsive.

Others point to more vigorous enforcement of the MOU in their work contract as regards workplace safety.

One person slipped Rebel Girl the phone number of an Orange County sheriff. "Call," she said. "I would." Sobering.

Stay tuned. Stay safe.

A little history here for those without a long memory: The former president of this institution received a monthly security stipend – absent any real threat except, of course, political opposition.

18 comments:

  1. I went to Campus Police in March with a issue of a student who provoked my verbally and gestured to me that she wanted to fight me. I reported this to several officers immediatelyy in front of this student and was told "Freedom of Speech" and unless the student touched me that they could do nothing about it. I am still angry and disappointed in these two officers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1:00, that's unacceptable. There's a lot of truth to what the cops told you, but there are other truths that are also important. Most districts (and other organizations) have formal policies designed to (among other things) protect employees so that they can perform their duties without fear. For instance, that we cannot simply kick Mr. Problematic Student out of school does not preclude monitoring of situations that are potentially dangerous. We--and by this I mean the college community--need to insist that the college develop formal policies that kick in and do not leave employees feeling utterly vulnerable, as seems to be the status quo. --BvT

    ReplyDelete
  3. Do I have the same freedom of speech to use explicit language and the same behavior with a student who behaved this way toward me??

    ReplyDelete
  4. Too bad the disruptive student didn't insutl the college president's wife's cake - or the department secretary.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Has anybody had to deal with Liz Cipres when dealing with a disruptive student? What a joke.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's the real liability factor. The college is SO concerned about possible lawsuits from students but look at what they'll have to answer for when something does happen - an unresponsive administration ofte staffed with people who have little or no formal academic training in distinguishing a "disruptive" student from one who is a real threat.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Right, for sure more concerned with being sued than, protecting Faculty/Staff from dangerous students.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am sure that Liz has extensive training in mental health.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There is no proactive policy.

    After an incident like the one that occurred this week -there should be a coordinated response with a clear sense of communication and purpose.

    Faculty and staff shouldn't be asked if they "feel safe" - a professional needs to examine the situation and determine whether or not they ARE safe and put into place security measures if necessary. It shouldn't be up to the employee to make that call. We aren't mental health experts or security experts either.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have found campus police to be very responsive in the past. I think they are hamstrung because of the muddled policy and lack of clear leadership on this issue.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What is an EdD? What kind of coursework? Where did she go to school? (just curious.)

    ReplyDelete
  12. It seems as if the number of students with these kind of issues has been increasing over the years - any insight as to why?

    I know I have been challenged in and out of the classroom as to how to meet their needs.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree I have found the campus police to be very responsive hampered by an adminsitration that has never understood the role of policing on campus. It's not all about parking and getting locked out of your office.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Can someone fill those of us in who aren't in the know? What happened?

    ReplyDelete
  15. An English instructor has been dealing with a "disturbed" student all semester, but then things seemed to get worse this week. The student was wandering around A200 with a pair of scissors, expressing his "disappointment" with some faculty. He expressed oddly hostile (and otherwise inapproriate) sentiments at other times that day to other faculty. He's been picked up by the people in grey, but the system does not permit dissemination of information about his release. Meanwhile, IVC administration seems utterly oblivious to the significant problems this entails for faculty, among others.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I wonder how the community would feel about the relative safety of this campus if they knew about stuff like this.

    ReplyDelete

Trolls and flamers will be cursed by our team of black magicians