Best Adult Educational Institution

The Westville Campus of Purdue University Northwest

With school shootings and threats happening around the country. Region colleges and universities have beefed up security.

Purdue University Northwest's Hammond campus had its own scare two years ago.

Anfani Okosun, then 18, of Michigan City, was accused of threatening to shoot students on campus. No one was injured, and the campus never went on lock down.

Okosun, a limited-term lecturer, was charged with intimidation, a Level 6 felony in March 2016. He was suspended as a limited-term lecturer shortly thereafter. The state eventually filed a reduced charge, Count 2 Harassment, a B misdemeanor.

Ultimately, Okosun was convicted of harassment and sentenced to six months probation. He completed that probation on July 6, 2017. 

Brian Miller, PNW's director of public safety, said the university takes a proactive approach preparing for an active shooter situation.

"For several years, the office of public safety has coordinated reviews of campus procedures to make PNW’s two campuses, Hammond and Westville, safer in the event of an active shooter," Miller said. "They also routinely conduct on-campus drills and training for campus members and local law enforcement officers."

In the summer 2016, PNW installed safer door latches on the inside of all classrooms and instructional laboratory areas. This was in response to faculty feedback from an on-campus lockdown drill.

PNW also added ALERTUS to the growing list of emergency alert systems. The software allows the office of public safety to immediately send a message to computer screens simultaneously with the Rave Alert Me text messaging system.

"Our goal is to give our campus members instant warning if any emergency or disaster strikes,” he said.

PNW has provided students, faculty and staff two different training programs since 2015: A.L.I.C.E., Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate, and one specific to active shooter situations. Participants learn how to respond during an active shooting in any venue. Numerous trainings routinely are offered on both campuses.

Over at Ivy Tech Community College, Jonathan Barefoot said the college's plans are continually updated.

"The best practice with any type of crisis management plan is to look at what's going on around the country and make sure we are in line with best practices. We're learning from others — both in K-12 and higher education," said Barefoot, executive director of statewide safety and security for Ivy Tech.

"We don't discuss specific threats but we do have procedures in place at every campus so that folks can report concerns, behavior concerns and mental health concerns," he said. "We have teams of people at every campus that include safety and security, wrap-around services and mental health professionals, who can evaluate and find out whether it's a real threat or a student who is in crisis and needs additional resources so they can be successful."

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The college also has a system called Ivy Alert, a multi-level approach to text students and staff; emergency beacons placed around campus; and messages through a campus-owned computer.

Indiana University Northwest spokeswoman Erika Rose said there have not been any threats to the Gary campus.

IUN has several measures in place to deal with an active shooter situation, she said, and regularly communicates with the campus community to remind employees about the various resources available.

The campus recently reinforced those resources by adopting the federal “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol; sharing information on the college website about how to respond to emergencies; and encouraging the campus community to sign up for IU Notify, a service that immediately informs IU subscribers of emergencies on campus.

She also said IUN's police department launched a small-group training program for individual campus departments on how to respond to an armed assailant. This customized, job-specific training has been in place the past two years.

Valparaiso University officials said the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff is a top priority.

Officials said they have increased efforts to educate the campus community regarding general safety and awareness and conduct regular training for potential incidents, including an active shooter scenario.

Procedures ensure different departments and agencies use the same terminology, handle incidents the same way and can work together effectively.

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.