In order to reaffirm its commitment to a safe learning and working environment, the university has adopted a universitywide policy on campus violence that calls for zero tolerance of violent behavior, threats and intimidation.
The policy also encourages students, faculty and staff to report their concerns about violence to campus security or other appropriate campus resources, such as the dean of students office, the counseling center or human resources.
"The Johns Hopkins University is committed to providing a learning and working environment that is safe to all members of the university community," the policy states. "The university will not tolerate violent acts on its campuses or in its programs. The university's commitment to zero tolerance for violence extends not only to actual violent conduct but also to verbal threats and intimidation."
In announcing the policy, university officials are carrying out another piece of a complex plan to combat campus and workplace violence, an effort that grew out of a campus committee on violence and its recommendations.
That committee, drawing on members of all areas of the university and chaired by Provost Steven Knapp, met for six months in the wake of the spring 1996 shooting death of Homewood student Rex Chao. The committee on violence issued its report and recommendations in March of the following year.
Much of what that report outlined has been carried through, including revised student codes of conduct, a campus policy against firearms and an emphasis on identifying and treating drug and alcohol abuse among faculty, staff and students.
One of the other recommendations from the committee was to establish risk assessment mechanisms to weigh the possible threats of violence. This led to the establishment of the Risk Assessment Team, which assesses violent, threatening or disruptive activity in the workplace. Similar risk assessment teams are in place for students at all campuses.
The idea behind having a risk assessment team is to have a thorough, systematic and consistent evaluation process in place if violent and potentially violent incidents arise, said Kathleen Beauchesne, director of the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and WORKlife Programs at Hopkins.
All members of the university Risk Assessment Team have undergone training led by Gerald Lewis, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Workplace Hostility: Myth and Reality.
The Hopkins approach is modeled after Lewis' teachings, said Beauchesne, who noted that the Risk Assessment Team has been working on cases for nearly two years now. In fiscal year 2000, the team considered 18 cases.
The team is brought in on situations early, often communicating by confidential e-mail and telephone trees to respond to situations. Cases involving direct physical violence are handled quickly, with Security responding and the person responsible immediately being removed from the workplace.
In any situation where there is an imminent risk of violent or hostile behavior, the individual is removed from the situation, said Patricia Friend, an attorney in the General Counsel's Office and a member of the Risk Assessment Team.
A staff or faculty member who hits someone will more likely than not be terminated, Friend said.
As soon as an incident is reported, an investigation is begun. Supervisors are directed to document what happened and to interview people involved. The faculty or staff person suspected of threatening or disruptive behavior undergoes an evaluation through FASAP, including psychological testing and counseling.
Twice each month, the Risk Assessment Team meets to review the details of individual cases and makes recommendations to management on how to deal most effectively with the faculty or staff member or members involved.
Several employees have been terminated because of violent behavior, Beauchesne said, and many others have been allowed to continue to work at Hopkins after proper intervention and counseling.
In the coming months, the university will provide supervisors and employees with training on proper procedure for handling violent behavior in the workplace, as it did when it instituted its policy on sexual harassment.
Friend noted that it's always been against university policy to engage in acts of violence or threats and said, "This restates our commitment to creating a safe working and learning environment."
While the university is making its best efforts to assess risk and prevent violence, Beauschesne observed that no system, however thorough it is, can predict with certainty how people are going to behave.
"When people talk about violence," she said, "they'll say it's like predicting a tornado or a storm. With this [risk assessment] process, it's made us the best weather predictors we can be. It'll never be a perfect system, but I think it's one of the best that we can do."
To read the policy, go to www.jhu.edu/news_info/policy/violence.html.