When Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, the question asked was “Could it have been prevented?”
The New York Times, reported that Loughner had a history of erratic behavior. Due to his “bizarre outbursts and violent internet fantasies,” he was suspended from Pima Community College and given a recommendation to get a mental health evaluation.
While Loughner’s behavior was worrisome, he was not forced to seek help. In October of 2010 he dropped out of his community college and three months later executed his plan to shoot Congresswoman Giffords.
Students exhibiting dangerous behavior pose a threat to the campus community.
Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, also had a history of angry emotions and erratic behavior.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, were victims of bullying and later started to bully students. They also created websites on how to create explosives and called themselves the “trench coat mafia.”
Virginia Tech and Columbine were extreme cases, but universities are starting to work on prevention of such tragic events in addition to preparation for such events. With this recent shift, the elimination of such tragic events in not guaranteed, but the hope is to lessen the possibility.
The same day the New York Times published the article, “College’s Policy on Troubled Students Raises Questions,” UTSA also ran an article, on UTSA Today, offering “multiple resources to assist with behavioral concerns,” and encouraging the campus community to be aware of students or faculty who exhibit troubling behavior.
A common misconception is that once a person reports troubling behavior, the person in question will find out their accuser. “It is completely anonymous,” said Dr. Tom Baez, UTSA’s director of counseling services and a psychologist. “Their contact information is optional.”
When reporting a behavioral concern, the only information required is approximate date and time, a description of the behavior, what the person saw and heard and any additional information about the person in question. “It all starts with a person filing a report,” said Baez.
In a recent report by NPR, Jeffrey Graves, The University of Texas at Austin’s associate vice president for legal affairs, discussed some tell tale signs of a possible imminent danger. Graves says that threats made to a third party should be taken more seriously than comments made directly to potential victims, since direct threats are more often simply an attempt to intimidate.
Another worrying sign, Graves said in the NPR interview is when a generally loud person quickly shifts to silence, as this may “indicate the beginning of a planning period.”
If a student, faculty, or staff member feels that a behavior is troubling he or she can also go to UTSA Police Department to fill out a report. “Officer’s will then assess if the student needs help one make a referral to counseling services or bring them,” said Baez.
Though UTSA has not had any campus-wide shooting incidents, it has had tragic events. In the past five years, there have been two shootings, one attempted suicide and one suicide.
Campus security may be one reason. “[UTSA] has cameras all over campus, behavioral intervention teams, and the reversal 911 system,” Baez said.
The reverse 911 system is a telephone, text and email notification for students, faculty and staff.
The Counseling Services office is located in the Recreation Wellness Center. Much like the reverse 911 system, students may not be aware of the location and that the services are free. “I am a senior and I didn’t even know they had the Counseling Services on campus” said Interdisciplinary Studies major Lucia San Miguel.
The Health Services department is located in the Recreation Wellness Center. “I have never used Counseling Services, but when I went to Health Services they took care of me,” said post-baccalaureate student Marisa De Anda.
These services are explained to incoming students during orientation. When junior pharmacy and chemistry major Mayela Guajardo went through orientation, she said. “It was a lot of information they were telling us, so the only things that stuck with me were the different buildings.”
When junior Interdisciplinary Studies major Jermaine Todd was asked what more UTSA could be doing he said “Just more awareness; maybe the university could even send out emails to students.”
For more information about these services visit utsa.edu/counsel/ or utsa.edu/health/.