The University announced Thursday that it will increase security procedures for all meetings of the University’s Board of Regents.
The initiative is the latest change for the board, after its meetings were permanently relocated from the Regents’ Room in the Fleming Administration Building to the Michigan Union. Like the new policy, the move was largely for security and access reasons, according to the press release.
All entrants to the meetings will be required to pass through a metal detector to screen for prohibited items, which include knives, self-defense sprays, stun guns and “noise-making devices.” Cell phones and laptops will be allowed into the meeting room, but must be screened separately, and there will be no option to check a bag with prohibited items before entering the meeting room. The changes are expected to take effect at the next scheduled regents meeting on Sept. 20.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a press release announcing the changes that the push for increased security was part of a national effort to increase safety in public forums.
“Given the heightened awareness across the nation to security issues — and as part of our ongoing effort to enhance safety on campus — we believe this is the prudent thing to do,” Fitzgerald wrote. “This is not a response to a specific threat.”
Fitzgerald said in an interview that the change was reached by consensus between the University’s executive officers and the regents after being recommended by Joe Piersante, the interim executive director of the University’s Department of Public Safety.
“The Board of Regents themselves were comfortable with this — I mean, this is their meeting,” Fitzgerald said. “The recommendation came from the Department of Public Safety and there was pretty much general agreement with the leadership of the University to move ahead.”
Fitzgerald added that there haven’t been recent security incidents at meetings that might force a review of safety measures, so the change was primarily preemptive.
According to Fitzgerald, the total cost of implementing the new security measures is about $9,500, including the cost of metal detectors. Fitzgerald was unable to comment about whether DPS resources would be diverted from other locations to provide security at the meetings.
He also declined to comment on how many officers would be present at meetings.
The use of metal detectors is not unprecedented at meetings of higher education boards across the country. Fitzgerald cited the procedures of the University of California’s Board of Regents as an example of similar preemptive action. The meetings of the UC Board of Regents have been forced into closed session and the university has even cancelled meetings because of violent disruptions by protesting students.
“There are different approaches to security taken at different venues across the country,” Fitzgerald said. “DPS made a recommendation and the leadership of the University agreed that this is a step we should take.”