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University Campuses Face Security Challenges

Monday's deadly shootings at Virginia Tech University have sparked concern over security at many colleges and universities around the country. Three education officials discuss the challenges of keeping students safe at often sprawling campuses.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Virginia Tech shootings sparked trepidation on college campuses across the country. Threats apparently unfounded forced the evacuation or lockdown of universities in Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Tennessee.

    Now we turn to three officials who deal with these worries every day. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is the president of George Washington University. Allen Bova is the director of risk management and insurance at Cornell University. And Melissa Vito is vice provost for student affairs and head of the campus emergency response team at the University of Arizona. In 2002, a nursing student there killed three instructors before taking his own life.

    Melissa Vito, I want to start with you, because you've kind of lived through this on your campus. It's a university's worst nightmare. How do you prepare for it?

    MELISSA VITO, University of Arizona: Well, thanks, Gwen. You prepare by trying to have a strong emergency response team in place, with a group of people who know what their roles are, who know how to deal with emergencies, and who can work really well together.

    And we had that in place at the College of Nursing shootings, but we also saw that we had some gaps. And so we've taken our team and expanded it, made sure that we've got faculty representation, student representation, and that it now is a broad-based group that meets monthly for several hours to review all aspects of our emergency response planning.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Allen Bova, let's talk about that. How is it different to try to come up with a plan, a multilayered plan that Melissa Vito just talked about, on a campus, on a college campus, than it would be anywhere else?

  • ALLEN BOVA, Cornell University:

    It's extremely challenging. It's extremely challenging. A college campus has hundreds of buildings; it's spread over many square miles. There's numerous departments and individuals that you need to consult to try to formulate such a plan.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Yet we heard that student, Allen Bova, just tell Tom Bearden in his tape report that she doesn't want a real lockdown on campus, that she doesn't want to be afraid on campus. How do you deal with that attitude?

  • ALLEN BOVA:

    I would support that student and their comment. I don't think that college campuses need to be fortresses or need to have airport security, because I think it would really harm the educational process. Also, I think it would harm us as a society to have such restrictive security.