Ross: CMU still a safe campus, university will continue to review safety improvements
Despite last week's abduction and sexual assault of a student, University President George Ross said CMU is still a safe campus.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of the university, the efficiency of the police department and the effectiveness of the Central Alert system following the incident, but in a Wednesday morning meeting with Central Michigan Life's editorial staff Ross addressed the criticisms and reflected on how the university handled the situation.
He said steps will be taken to deter similar incidents in the future.
"First of all, I just want to say that I'm thankful that everyone is alive and safe," Ross said during the meeting. "(Local) law enforcement agencies responded in incredible ways."
Ross said despite Wednesday night's events, he believes that CMU is a safe place.
"When I talk to professionals, (they all said) this kind of incident is unheard of," he said.
In addressing the criticism of the Central Alert System, Ross said he believes the alert came out in a timely manner.
As previously reported by CM Life, a CMU senior from Grand Rapids was held at gunpoint and abducted around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 16.
Police were not contacted until around 11:30 p.m., nearly 2 hours after Shepherd resident Eric Lee Ramsey approached the Grand Rapids senior in the parking lot of the Student Activity Center.
During a Jan. 17 news conference, CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley said the timeliness of the alert was dependent on the relay of information to CMU police from other police agencies.
“If CMU officers were interviewing the victim, we know that we need to get the information and send it out," Yeagley said. "Other police agencies don’t have to send out information, (so it takes longer for us to get that information.)"
With the alert coming out shortly after information had been gathered, Ross said it's important to realize the alert did not come out three and a half hours after the incident, as some critics have claimed.
"There's always room for improvement, but given the circumstances we were presented with, I believe we responded appropriately," Ross said.
Ross said the university consistently surveys safety on campus in order to ensure the safest environment possible for students.
"There is an inventory taken around the entire campus on an annual basis," Ross said. "After this incident, we're looking at everything. Where we think it's appropriate, we'll add additional resources."
Another critique of the Central Alert system was many students didn't know they had to sign up to receive emergency notifications. Ross brought up the 'No Zebras, No Excuses' orientation program in response to this, saying that students are reminded to sign up for alerts at that time.
Since last week, almost 1,000 students have signed up for the system, Associate Vice President of University Communications Sherry Knight said.
The university is also looking at campaigns that will remind students who have not done so to sign up for the Central Alert system should another emergency occur.