The University of Minnesota and schools across the country have devised proactive approaches to identify potential threats to campus in light of recent mass shootings.
In response to the rise of active shooter situations in academic settings, colleges and universities across the country have devised “threat assessment” teams. These programs, at the University and elsewhere, investigate students or other individuals who may pose a threat to themselves or others.
The genesis of many assessment teams was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, which killed 32 people.
The University’s response to the Virginia Tech shooting was the establishment of the Behavioral Consultation Team in 2007. The BCT, made up of multidisciplinary University staff, meets regularly to discuss and investigate individuals who have been flagged as a potential threat to the community.
In 2016, the University established the Care Program to provide outreach to those who may pose a threat to themselves or who need additional mental health resources. The Care Program also follows up on cases, while the BCT focuses on immediate crises. The BCT is not an emergency first responder.
Laura Knudson, assistant vice provost for student advocacy and support in the Office of Student Affairs, oversees the Care Program.
“The goal [of the programs] is to have a coordinated response to students who may represent a threat to themselves or to others,” Knudson said.
One group involved with the BCT is the University of Minnesota Police Department, represented by Chief Matt Clark. Clark said the decrease in stigma surrounding mental health and reporting concerns has made the team’s job easier.
“Threat assessment can be very broad and the responses can be even broader,” Clark said. “With less of that stigma comes a more comprehensive resolution.”
Across the Big Ten
Other Big Ten schools, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Michigan, have very similar procedures.
Heather Young, director of strategic communication for the Division of Public Safety and Security at the University of Michigan, said prevention is key.
Like the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan has brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to identify potential threats or other issues.
“It’s really about connecting the dots,” Young said. “If there’s been a trend of incidents or an individual who has been exhibiting suspicious or dangerous behavior, that would be flagged with the group and they would be able to take a look at it and see if there is any safety, security, criminal or mental health issue.”
Lt. Joseph McCullough of the University of Illinois Police Department said officer and civilian training, education and community relations all aid in tragedy prevention.
“We really hope nothing happens to that effect, but it is a possibility,” McCullough said. “The worst thing that communities and the police department can do is ignore it.”
The University of Illinois has its own threat assessment team that works in tandem with other groups that help provide resources and support to students who may need it.
“All these teams work in tandem,” McCullough said. “Several of the members sit on all the teams to allow consistency.”
The tip line for the Behavioral Consultation Team is 612-626-3030.
Correction: A previous version of this story included the incorrect phone number for the Behavioral Consultation Team.