DPSS officer presents on emergency alerts and protocol at CSG meeting

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 12:41am

Lt. Bryan Baker of DPSS speaks about the false alarm on Saturday during the Central Student Government meeting in the Michigan League Tuesday.

Lt. Bryan Baker of DPSS speaks about the false alarm on Saturday during the Central Student Government meeting in the Michigan League Tuesday. Buy this photo
Darby Stipe/Daily

The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday evening to discuss a new resolution regarding the implementation of a well-being fee. The Student Assembly also continued debate over a resolution to advocate for the revision of the cross-examination model of the sexual misconduct policy, and Lt. Bryan Baker, Division of Public Safety and Security liaison to the Division of Student Life, spoke to the Assembly about unfounded reports of an active shooter on campus Saturday afternoon.

During a vigil on the Diag Saturday afternoon honoring the more than 50 killed and 50 injured in Friday’s mosque attacks in New Zealand, reports of an active shooter in Mason Hall surfaced. After investigating the situation for about three hours, police cleared the area and determined there was no active threat to the community.

Baker gave a presentation to the Assembly about active attacker preparedness and the University’s emergency alert system. He began his presentation by reading from Saturday’s official University statement on the situation, as well as an excerpt from DPSS Executive Director Eddie Washington’s official statement on March 17.

“The news of a shooter on campus was a terrifying and traumatic experience for members of our community — both for people near Mason Hall when the reports were coming in as well as anyone who received the alert from afar,” Washington wrote in the statement. “After a thorough search of Angell and Mason Halls, officers were able to confirm the reports were related to balloons popping in the area, which sounded like shots being fired. Even though this was a false alarm, we are grateful for members of our community who made the call to police to report it.”

Baker shared DPSS’ and Counseling and Psychological Services’ contact information and explained how students, parents and community members can register their cell phone numbers through Wolverine Access to receive emergency alerts. Alerts are offered through a text message, phone call or both, and the person registering their number chooses the way they wish to be notified.

“I read a few statements and I heard things, students saying, ‘I didn’t get any type of alert,’” Baker said. “That’s telling me those students, if they haven’t registered for emergency alerts, need to make sure that they are. We do know that there were some communication issues in terms of how the alerts were sent out due to cell phone towers and their capacities over the weekend.”

Emergency alerts are also available through the Michigan app and the new version of the DPSS app, Baker said. He encouraged Assembly members to sign up for both text message and phone call notifications through Wolverine Access in addition to downloading both apps.

Baker continued his presentation by addressing the University’s protocol in the event of an emergency. He emphasized the need to use the “run, hide, fight” protocol implemented by DPSS in regards to situations involving an active attacker.

“It’s not necessarily hide and then run and then fight,” Baker said. “It is run or hide or fight. Again, you have to make that determination of what that means … If there’s a threat that’s immediately present to you, it’s up to you to determine what your response is going to be.”

Baker said the investigation of Saturday’s events remains ongoing and the University and DPSS are looking into the delay in alerts to the campus community.

The University and DPSS, we’ve already transitioned our gears into active action and figuring out what exactly happened, what happened with communication, what happened with responses,” Baker said. “We’re working on really getting the best of that.”

After Baker’s presentation, members voiced concerns regarding how Saturday’s situation was handled. LSA fifth year Cece Huddleston asked Baker about the delay of alerts from DPSS. Although Huddleston was not near Mason Hall at the time, she said she was very disappointed in the way the situation was notified to students across campus.

“I wouldn’t be a good LSA rep if I didn’t let you know that pretty much everybody in my community was very disappointed,” Huddleston said. “We heard in our group chat between 4:00 and 4:15 about an active shooter being on campus, but I just looked up the first tweet from DPSS was at 5:04 ... Being so close to campus and not knowing what’s going on is very scary.”

Huddleston also questioned whether the balloon popping that caused reports of an active shooter were a malicious act. She said as a member of a marginalized community, she along with others in the community through the balloon popping occurring during a vigil for the New Zealand victims seemed almost too convenient.

Baker said he is not directly involved in the investigation. He answered Huddleston by explaining that he has not heard of any malicious intent.

“From what I understand, the investigation is still ongoing,” Baker said. “From what I’ve been told, there was no malicious intent. I know that might differ from the perception of the community, but that’s all I can share right now.”

In addition to Baker’s presentation, CSG President Daniel Greene, Public Policy senior, along with LSA senior Rafik Issa and LSA senior Edward Samir Haraka, presented a new resolution encouraging the implementation of a well-being fee. If passed, the resolution would add a $19.33 well-being fee to student tuition to expand mental health services and attempt to improve overall well-being on campus.

Greene said the resolution is based on previous wellness fee initiatives by the University of California, Berkeley. He said the issue of providing more funds to CAPS and other campus wellbeing organizations has been an issue on CSG campaign platforms for the past seven to eight years.

“The one consistent thing that has been on every single CSG campaign platform including this year is improving CAPS and improving the number of crisis counselors and improving the number of counselors across campus,” Greene said. “The well-being fee we’re about to introduce to you all is an option for finally ending what some have called a seven to eight year fight for actually combating the mental health stigma on our campus and finally being a leader within the Big 10 when it comes to promoting mental health awareness.”

The three presenters broke down the $19.33 fee into four sections. According to the presentation, $12.42 would go to extending CAPS services, adding 12 new counselors to their new Central Campus location and ensuring access to at least one embedded counselor in each of the 19 University colleges.

The resolution would also allocate $2 to the Maize and Blue Cupboard, a newly implemented food pantry for students in the basement of Betsy Barbour. Issa and Haraka said the money would make certain a sustainable source of funding for the food pantry, making the Michigan experience more equitable for low income students. The program would be available to all students year-round.

One dollar of the $19.33 would go to the establishment of a discretionary fund. This fund would support and fund student well-being initiatives such as free menstrual products and covering medical or psychological fees for survivors of sexual assault, the presentation said. The last $3.88 would go to financial aid services.

“We believe instituting a well-being fee here would be really helpful in improving the climate of well-being on our campus,” Issa said. “It can improve the infrastructure of CAPS.”

The resolution was referred to the Resolutions and Communications committees.

The Assembly also passed a previous resolution about the University’s sexual misconduct cross-examination policy. According to CSG Speaker Austin Glass, Rackham student, many changes were made to the resolution. He said he discussed the resolution with the directors of the Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Center and Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

“(The administration) changed the current (Title IX) policy, which has a student accused of prohibited behavior including sexual assault, sexual violence, other forms of sexual misconduct,” Glass said. “It currently has the individual accused of that act directly cross-examining in an adversarial sense their accuser. We think that’s wrong, and we think that ought to change to a system where the accuser does not have to see or hear their accused in the questioning process.”

General Counsel Thaddaeus Gregory, Law student, said the current policy set up by the University says the accused individual’s agent poses questions through an electronic format. These questions are read by a third party before they are administered in the cross-examination.

“I’d just like to draw your attention to the end, where we have a very clearly described process, which satisfies the live cross-examination requirement by the Sixth Circuit that prevents the accused and their accuser from coming face to face, having the accuser have to endure live, direct, verbal cross-examination,” Gregory said. “I think we can get the best of both worlds here.”

The Assembly referred a resolution to mandate a trigger warning on class syllabi to the Resolutions and Communications committees. They also voted to adopt a resolution to financially support Compost Michigan, a student group initiative by the Law School that supplies compostable materials to the campus community.