In the year since the on-campus stabbing attack that killed UT freshman Harrison Brown and left three students injured, the University has made efforts to improve campus safety.
The Texas Department of Public Safety released recommendations following the 2016 murder of dance freshman Haruka Weiser, including increasing UT Police Department officer presence, enhancing security cameras and increasing lighting. The 2017 stabbings reaffirmed the need for these changes and for first aid assistance on campus, said Jimmy Johnson, assistant vice president of campus safety, in a statement.
“The University has really taken great strides in doing a variety of things,” Johnson said. “As we’ve looked at the incidents that have happened on campus, we want to ensure that we have a feeling of safety amongst our campus constituents.”
In the past year, UT has begun equipping building entrances with kits that include automated external defibrillators and Stop the Bleed kits. Stop the Bleed is a national campaign to equip people to help in a bleeding emergency before professionals arrive.
UT has partnered with the Stop the Bleed campaign to conduct on-campus training with a goal to train 5,000 members of the UT community by the end of the year.
“I think (Stop the Bleed is) something that’s really very important,” Johnson said. “As we’ve talked with the Browns and some of our organizations on campus, there was the feeling that people didn’t know what to do. We want to provide that information.”
Along with increased first aid assistance, UT wants to emphasize the “Call 911 Anytime You Feel Unsafe” message of the Be Safe campaign.
“Our students are engaged, and they are reporting things,” UTPD Chief David Carter said. “A couple of years ago, one of the things of concern that we had at UTPD was hearing about incidents anecdotally. The one thing that I can tell you has changed is that students, faculty and staff are actually calling us when there is something that doesn’t look right.”
UT also hired a communications director who solely oversees UTPD to improve communication and engagement with the University community.
“One of the things that we heard from last year was that our police officers responded to the tragedy in less than 90 seconds and had the offender in custody, but we were very slow on our communication out of the police department,” Carter said. “We spent a lot of time and energy on the issue of communications and having a good method to communicate with our community, and that continues to evolve and continues to improve.”
Joell McNew serves as vice president of SafeHorns, a nonprofit coalition of parents and community members trying to improve safety and security conditions at UT. McNew said the partnership with Stop the Bleed and increased first aid is a good step, but more needs to be done.
McNew said she would like to see more patrol officers in busy campus areas such as Speedway, a parental opt-in option for safety alerts and the incorporation of Longhorn EMS, a student organization of trained emergency medical technicians.
“I feel like the list (of safety changes) is somewhat similar to Haruka’s, except for (adding) Stop the Bleed,” McNew said. “There’s still room for improvement and we really wish that UT would listen to feedback.”