University launches new threat management program
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 01:10
University officials recently established a new safety system, the Tufts Threat Assessment and Management (TTAM) program, in order to better prevent violence on campus.
According to Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire, who serves as chair of the new TTAM teams, the program is designed to calculate possible threats by breaking down information barriers between separate sections and organizations on campus.
“The idea is to identify community members in need of services through a collaborative, multi-disciplinary ... approach and get them the help that they need before any potential violence manifests itself,” Maguire told the Daily in an email.
In an Oct. 7 email addressed to members of the Tufts community, University President Anthony Monaco announced TTAM’s recent launch and explained the importance of the new system.
“Tufts is committed to maintaining an environment in which individuals are safe to learn, work and live,” Monaco wrote. “In support of this commitment, we affirm that Tufts will not tolerate violence or threats of violence anywhere on its campuses or in connection with university-sponsored programs.”
Planning for the program began in December of 2011, Maguire said, after the shooting at Virginia Tech inspired higher education institutions across the country to take action. Many universities realized that their employees were not trained in identifying potential threats, he explained.
“What came out of the examination of that tragedy was that the shooter had given many indications that he was on a pathway to violence to a host of personnel in different disciplines and in different offices on campus,” Maguire said. “[Y]et the indications, like pieces of a puzzle, were never put together because information remained in separate silos ... there was no formal mechanism to facilitate cross department / school / discipline communications.”
Prior to the program, Tufts had a number of unofficial methods for assessing and managing threatening behavior, Maguire said. After researching other schools’ programs, however, officials realized that the university could adopt a more structured and collaborative strategy.
According to Maguire, many institutions such as California State University, San Bernardino and Cornell University already have these safety systems in place. Colleges in states that suffer the most targeted violence — Virginia, Illinois and Alabama — are required by law to have threat assessment programs.
“Having threat assessment and management teams in place at colleges and universities is now considered a best practice in the higher education community,” Maguire said.
Like most institutionalized threat assessment and management programs in the country, Maguire said, Tufts’ program resulted from efforts by the United States Secret Service to better understand and predict threatening behaviors. He explained that Tufts consulted both an expert in the field of violence prevention and literature on the subject.
While the Department of Public and Environmental Safety provides leadership for the program, numerous other offices, including the Office of the President, Human Resources, Counseling and Mental Health Service as well as offices in many of the graduate schools are also involved.
As the university continues to evaluate threats, students should remember to reach out and report instances or people that made them feel fearful, according to Maguire.
“Recognizing and reporting early signs of a potentially dangerous situation can be crucial to preventing violence and enabling Tufts to help community members who may be in distress,” he said.
In the case that anyone — whether that person be a student, university employee, parent or alumnus — feels threatened, that person should report the concern to the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) or to TTAM, student-TUPD liaison Becky Goldberg said.
“[The program] is not just for students or faculty but for anyone with relationship with the Tufts campus,” Goldberg, a junior, said. “Even if you are unsure, it’s always best to talk with someone who has been trained to assess and take action regarding potential violence.”
Community members can also report using a TTAM group email or, in cases where they wish to remain anonymous, using EthicsPoint, available on the TTAM website, Maguire said.
“You don’t have to decide whether further intervention is needed,” Maguire said. “Once you report a concern, TTAM members who are trained in threat assessment and management will be able to determine if further action is needed.”
Maguire added that the TTAM service does not replace immediate police response. When in danger, university members should call the TUPD emergency number.
“When we see something of a violent or potentially violent nature, we should say something to those in a position to act,” Maguire said. “We keep our community safe when we take action to protect one another.”University officials recently established a new safety system, the Tufts Threat Assessment and Management (TTAM) program, in order to better prevent violence on campus.