Banis addresses Tucson shooting, campus safety

    University officials hosted a community dialogue on civility, campus safety and mental health resources in the Louis Room on Thursday night after students raised concerns over the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson, Arizona. Students and staff in attendance voiced concerns about resources available on campus and a sense of Northwestern community.

    William Banis, vice president of student affairs, hosted the event alongside Lieutenant Ron Godby from NUPD and John Dunkle, the executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Northwestern. Banis used the shootings and the message of civility surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a starting point for the dialogue.

    “We thought this might be an opportune time for us to engage in a small community dialogue about civility, campus safety and to do some outreach and be available as resources,” Banis said. “We didn’t expect a lot of people, but we wanted to put it out there.”

    Students raised concerns about the availability and efficiency of CAPS to address mental health problems quickly. They also discussed increasing peer outreach, which Dunkle said is the way most students first find help.

    “Resources are obviously a major issue,” Dunkle said, adding that all universities have similar problems. “It can’t just be the counseling center who helps address the issue. It can also be a community issue.”

    Banis and Godby also discussed Northwestern’s preparations for emergencies, citing NUPD’s ability to respond within two minutes to most campus emergencies. NUPD trains for rapid response in situations such as on campus shootings and educates staff on emergency protocol.

    “We’ve been training for the worst and hoping for the best,” Godby said.

    School of Communication sophomore Nicole Silverberg, who is from Tucson and grew up close to where the shooting occurred, said the discussion turned out well. She appreciated the opportunity to discuss mental health in relation to violence, as well as remind others about the need to take care of themselves and each other.

    “There’s no one at this school who isn’t overcommitted or stressed out sometimes,” Silverberg said. “I needed the reminder of those around me.”

    Banis encouraged students to reach out to individuals who may be distressed. He emphasized the need to keep staff well-trained and students informed.

    “Universities are supposed to be safe havens,” he said. “We do all that we can to ensure everyone’s safety. We’ve done a lot, but there’s no guarantee.”


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