The following letter was sent to the parents of Johns Hopkins University students by President William R. Brody.
April 19, 2007
Dear Johns Hopkins Parents,
Like you, I am horrified at the violence this week at one of our sister institutions, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Our hearts are with the families of the victims, and with all the students, faculty and staff of the university. I have indicated to President Charles W. Steger that the services of Johns Hopkins are at his disposal should he require them.
Our own university has suffered more than its share of tragedies in recent years. The members of our community affected by those tragedies remain constantly in our thoughts.
So we know from bitter experience that Virginia Tech will never be exactly the same. But we also know that members of the community there will draw great strength from each other. They will support each other and console one another. They will emerge from this tragedy scarred but strong. The resilience of great institutions lies in a shared mission, a shared history and tradition, and a shared sense of purpose. Virginia Tech has all this, and it has something even more important: great people.
My staff and I already have begun to discuss the implications of this tragic event for Johns Hopkins. We intend to examine the incident in detail and implement lessons learned in our own emergency preparation and response planning, including our methods for notifying students quickly in case of emergencies.
Meanwhile, I want to remind you about some of the additional security measures we have taken at the Homewood campus over the past few years.
We have installed 101 (soon to be 102) "smart" CCTV cameras on and around the Homewood campus. These are not passive cameras pointed at campus with someone back in a monitoring center trying to keep an eye on all of them at once. The cameras are backed up by computers that analyze the images, using algorithms designed to detect suspicious situations and to alert our monitors.
You can get a good sense of what the system can do from a June 2006 story in our faculty/staff newspaper: www.jhu.edu/gazette/2006/26jun06/26secure.html.
We have given Baltimore city police real-time access to 30 of the cameras that are on our property but outside the perimeter of the campus. Police responding to a situation can be forearmed with real-time information on what is happening.
We are the first university in Baltimore to establish direct communications contact with Baltimore police. So we do not have to call 911. Our dispatcher can be in direct contact with police dispatchers and, when necessary, the dispatchers can put officers in direct touch with each other.
We have built our network of on- and off-campus emergency telephones to 87. Many of them have cameras either right on them or nearby, so that when the phones are activated we can keep a protective eye on the caller until assistance arrives.
Besides our own force of 54 campus police officers, we now employ up to eight off-duty police officers and 60 contract officers every day. We station people all over campus and in the neighborhood nearby, some in fixed locations and some on patrol by foot, bike or car. They're visible, so they provide deterrence. And they can see what's going on and respond, quickly calling for backup assistance if necessary.
We have beefed up access control at residence halls. Students must now present their ID/swipe card at a single "choke point" entrance to get into any residence hall. Security is layered, so that students must pass more than one checkpoint to get to their own sections of their buildings and use a key to get into their rooms.
We are working with Baltimore police on a Johns Hopkins "crime watch" program, recruiting more than 350 students, faculty and staff so far as extra eyes and ears for the two departments.
We believe these actions have greatly enhanced the safety and security of our students. We continue to look at additional steps we should take. We do not pretend, however, that we can protect our university community from every danger. We know that what happened at Virginia Tech could have happened anywhere.
I am mindful that there are students at Johns Hopkins who have friends or relatives at Virginia Tech. There may also be students experiencing difficulty with the emotions generated by such a traumatic incident. Please, if you think it would be at all helpful, encourage your child to seek out the resources available on campus, whether it is the Counseling Service, peer counseling, our chaplains, advisers, or some other support mechanism. You may also want to refer your child to this resource: helping.apa.org/articles/article.php?id=151.
The shootings at Blacksburg were horrible by any standard. That they occurred on a campus, a campus full of bright, inquisitive, promising students like our own, simply breaks our hearts. We stand with the students, faculty and staff of Virginia Tech. We grieve with them. We all will hold the university and its people in our hearts.
William R. Brody
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