(April, 2007)

To: The NYU Community
From: John Sexton, President
Jules Martin, Vice President for Public Safety
Re: Virginia Tech: Our Focus on Your Safety and Communicating in an Emergency

The shootings at Virginia Tech on Monday were terrible and tragic, another grievous instance of the kind of senseless violence that seems to erupt in our nation all too often. We are sure we speak on behalf of everyone at NYU when we say that the Virginia Tech community, the victims, and their families are in our thoughts and prayers.

It is natural that such an incident makes each of us look around at his or her own environment and contemplate the unthinkable. We want to reassure you that the safety of the NYU community is a top priority for the University administration. NYU's Department of Public Safety operates on a 24/7 basis, and we have over 300 well-trained personnel: uniformed security officers, supervisors, and managers. Their mission, which they fulfill with professionalism and dedication every day, is to keep you safe. They work in close partnership with the New York City Police Department, which would be called in immediately in any serious incident.

Our campus has in place an "all hazards" emergency response plan which enables us to respond to events as diverse as an avian flu outbreak, a terrorist attack, or an event like Virginia Tech's. The plan emphasizes fast reaction to incidents, swift notification of emergency services, rapid involvement of senior University officials, and prompt communication with our University community through a variety of means.

Monday's shootings highlight the importance of timely, accurate and effective communications during a campus emergency. You should be aware of the mechanisms which serve our campus - the email direct system, our info.alert website (www.nyu.edu/info.alert), and messaging through NYU Home. Another indispensable source of information for you in an emergency - for instance, whether to remain in a building or evacuate it - is our security officers. They are connected via a two-way radio system, and in times of emergency, they will receive up-to-the-minute information and instructions at their posts or on patrol; you should heed their instructions and advice.

For some time, we have been looking at new opportunities for rapid communication in response to the proliferation of cell phones, mechanisms that would allow us to send blast text messages to the NYU community in an emergency. Last week, the University's Director of Emergency Management discussed this at an Inter Residence Hall Council meeting, and the concept was well received.

The University will be testing such a system in the next few weeks. We already have some 17,000 student cell phone numbers in our system. We urge students who have not already registered their cell phone information on "Albert" to do so; it can make a vital difference in an emergency. Employees should furnish cell phone information to the HR representatives in their units, who will soon be able to enter it into the Human Resources Information System.

The information you provide will not be shared with others, aside from the partner vendor with whom we will develop the service. And other than possible tests -- which will be kept to a minimum and announced in advance - the system will only be used in circumstances we deem to be an emergency.

I also want to remind this campus that in an emergency, timely calls to 911 or to the University's emergency number - 212-998-2222 - can save lives. By keeping our eyes and ears open, trusting our instincts, and reporting possible criminal activity swiftly, we can all enhance one another's safety.

We all share a sense of terrible grief and sorrow for the victims of Monday's shootings, their loved ones, and the Virginia Tech community. At the instigation of our students, there are two efforts underway to express our common bonds and shared sense of sorrow with the Virginia Tech community:

  • students have begun a "white ribbon" campaign to express solidarity with the people of Virginia Tech; you will begin to see the ribbons around campus today
  • students are organizing a vigil that will be held on Thursday, April 19 at 5:00 pm. The location will be announced shortly.

Tragedies like these, which dominate the headlines and our conversations and feel particularly close to home for us, an academic community, can make us all feel vulnerable. We want to remind you that the University has an array of services to support you in a time of sorrow and vulnerability: students can reach the Wellness Exchange at 9999 from any campus, at 212-443-9999 from any outside line, or by email at wellness.exchange@nyu.edu. Employees of the University can reach out to our employee assistance provider, Corporate Counseling Associates, at 800-833-8707 or via the internet at www.nyu.edu/pages/fsap/.

The safety and well-being of this community is always at the forefront of our thoughts, and we shall continue to do the utmost to keep you all safe and secure.