Campus Safety Act of 2009 waits for Senate approval

By Gus Bode

A bill before Congress could help SIUC and other universities pay for extra safety measures taken after the fatal shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.

Rep. John Shimkus announced the passage of the Campus Safety Act of 2009 by the House of Representatives on Feb. 3. The bill allows for a National Center for Campus and Public Safety through the Office of Community Oriented Policing, according to the bill’s press release, which would provide grants to colleges, universities and nonprofits to train and educate people in public safety.

Todd Sigler, director of SIUC Police, said he does not expect


much opposition to the bill in the Senate. Sigler said he has strongly supported the bill.

‘ ‘Our college and university campuses face unique sets of public safety issues,’ Shimkus said in a written statement. ‘This bill allows schools to access funds in order to make their campuses safer for students.’

Sigler said the grant would help offset the cost of changes made to campus emergency responses, such as mass text messages and e-mails to notify students of emergencies.

Sigler also said the money could pay to update storm sirens and train new employees.

Similar to the public address systems at Disney World and Six Flags, Sigler said newer versions of storm sirens would allow voice commands and alerts to give out emergency information.

Sigler said the number of campus police officers has gradually decreased since he started work with the university 20 years ago. There are now 36 officers, he said.

Despite the reduction of officers, though, SIU President Glenn Poshard said campus security is doing a solid job of implementing its campus safety plan.


‘We have a campus violence (prevention) committee that is in place that constantly goes over our plans to react to situations that might be violent in nature,’ Poshard said.

Sigler said the committee meets every Monday to review cases that involve safety issues and tries to help those individuals or groups involved with helpful resources.

The committee reviews anything from disorderly conduct on campus to attempted suicide, he said.

The bill could give the university money to train committee members in threat assessment, Sigler said.

The Department of Public Safety is state-funded, Sigler said. But as with all university departments, he said, his department has had to cut back because of the struggling economy.

He said this means less money to train new officers and less money for equipment such as squad cars and fuel.

It doesn’t mean, however, that campus is any less safe, he said.

‘The administration has done a very good job at making sure we have what we need to provide as safe of an environment as possible,’ Sigler said.

What kind of projects the bill would fund depends on how much money, if any, the university would receive and what types of projects legislators decide the bill will fund, he said.

Because the bill is open to universities nationwide, Poshard said if the university is awarded a grant, it might be a small one.

‘It would give us a few thousand dollars to help us strengthen our own program, which we feel is pretty strong already,’ Poshard said.