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Revista de Prensa: Artículos

lunes, 23 de enero de 2012

Colleges Fail to Complete Required Safety Plans

Sarah J. Pawlowski


More than three years after the fatal shootings at Northern Illinois University prompted a state law requiring colleges and universities to put safety plans in effect, few of Cook County’s 63 higher-education institutions have filed them and many may not have made them public.

Widespread noncompliance with the Illinois Campus Security Enhancement Act illustrates serious shortcomings of the law: lack of both an enforcement provision and a clear mandate as to which public agency is responsible for ensuring compliance, lawmakers and people who have administered the statute said.

“Nobody has the authority to enforce this act,” said Gretchen Jarrett, the state’s campus security coordinator.

Ms. Jarrett is the only employee responsible for helping the state’s 189 colleges and universities make violence-prevention plans and plans for any kind of emergency, conduct annual security training and assemble behavior-assessment teams to track dangerous conduct on campuses.

There was no campus security coordinator until November 2010 — nearly two years after the law took effect — when the Illinois Terrorism Task Force appointed Roy Garcia, a 35-year law enforcement veteran.

“The unfortunate thing about the Campus Safety Enhancement Act is that there really is no teeth for any type of enforcement,” said Mr. Garcia, who left the post in October.

Senator John Millner, a Republican from Carol Stream who was one of the 12 sponsors of the legislation, said schools that were not complying with the law should be sanctioned. “Just because they found a loophole in the law,” because it has no enforcement provisions, failing to comply is irresponsible, he said. Just 7 of the 63 Cook County colleges and universities said in interviews with ChicagoTalks, a news Web site, that they were complying. ChicagoTalks is run by students and overseen by the journalism faculty at Columbia College Chicago.

Eleven of the county’s higher-education institutions are not in compliance with at least part of the law, according to the interviews. The other schools could not or would not provide enough information to show whether they were complying.

Officials at several institutions expressed frustration, saying that they had received little or no guidance from the state.

“We try to comply,” said Bruno Bondavalli, dean of academic and student affairs at St. Augustine College in Chicago. Mr. Bondavalli said he did not know whether the college, which hired consultants to help create its plan, is doing what is required by the law.

Senators Edward Maloney, a Chicago Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and Ira Silverstein, also a Democrat from Chicago; and Representative Angelo Saviano, a Republican from Elmwood Park, pledged to revisit the law when legislators return to Springfield next year.

“I’ll look into this immediately to find out why they can’t implement this,” Mr. Silverstein said.

Austin Quick, speaker of the Northern Illinois student senate, said schools should be held accountable.

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