Campus Safety and Safety Nets:  A University’s Evolution to Support and Protect Students

with Justin Kelley, Halston Fleming, Timothy Grimm, Jewel Daney

About This Course

In response to tragic acts of campus violence in the mid-2000s, colleges and universities around the country established behavioral intervention and threat assessment groups designed to manage and address students of concern who pose a risk to the campus community. The development and functions of these teams can vary drastically amongst institutions of higher learning. These differences are a unique and direct reflection of diverse student populations throughout the nation as well as the unique professional experience within the membership of each university behavioral intervention team. This session features a panel discussion of the progression of Rutgers University’s behavioral intervention team from its earliest stages to the present, and also incorporates the challenges particular to current generations of students, and how these factors have shaped the support work at Rutgers.

Over the years, it became evident that more students were entering the university with an array of mental health, personal, and developmental challenges. Further, much has been written, both in scholarly work and popular media, on the reduced resilience of the current generation of students. The factors that can affect youth and young adults - mental health status, parenting practices, impact of technology and social media - present challenges to developing responsible and positive decision making. At their most extreme, it can reduce empathy and result in risky and dangers behaviors affecting the safety and wellbeing of the student and/or those around them.

Additionally, large universities such as Rutgers are home to a broad range of economic, cultural, religious, and international populations that not only present opportunities for enrichment, but also can be a challenge as individuals adapt or adjust within the larger cohort. With more emphasis on retention and graduation by public and private entities, as well as institutional mission, it prompted the Rutgers team to assess and review the most effective means of helping students especially those of concern to complete their degrees.

Beginning in 2008 RU established the Safety Net to intervene on behavior concerns, but also to provide ongoing regular support to students. The Dean of Students Office in 2011, elected to hire the first of two case managers to assist the Threat Assessment and Safety Committee in its safety function and to provide ongoing student support services. With the addition of a second case manager in 2013 as well as the need to adapt to the challenges of Rutgers students, the safety initiative was refined yet again in 2014 to include distinct Threat Assessment and Care-Level functions. In order to review students of concern quickly and to determine the best form of intervention and support, a formal triage team was created. Using evidence-based screening tools and extensive data gathering and research to provide a comprehensive view of a case under consideration, the triage team determines if a case falls into one of two categories: a credible substantial risk of harm to individuals within the University or to the University community as a whole; or substantial impediment to the lawful activities, the educational process, or the proper activities or functions of other members of the University community.

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