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Higher Ed in the News

Workplace violence on college campuses

February 16, 2010

Fortunately, killings of professors on campus are rare, and when they occur at all, they tend to be by students, not colleagues. However, experts recommend the same types of procedures that many colleges adopted in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings -- such as creating threat assessment teams to consider whether students could pose a threat -- need to include faculty members as well.

Recent news on the shooting of three biology professors at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, points to the need for colleges and universities to be aware that their faculty members and other employees may be unstable.

The nature of academe — in which lots of critical comments are made all the time — is precisely why threat assessment teams are needed.

Ann H. Franke, who consults with colleges nationally on issues of risk management, said that "fortunately this is a very rare event," but she agreed that threat assessment teams are key to minimizing future incidents. Colleges should determine whether their teams have the authority and ability to consider possible threats by faculty and staff members as well as campus visitors, and should adjust plans if they don't, Franke said.

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