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Tri-College campus security re-evaluated after break-in

The break-in on Nov. 8 that occurred on 8th St., just across the street from the heart of campus, is a reminder that Concordia is not isolated from the surrounding community. Two Concordia students were victims of an armed robbery. The intruders who have been arrested as of press time are all Fargo residents, yet they broke into an apartment in Moorhead. Statistically, Concordia is a safer campus than NDSU and MSUM, according to annual safety and security reports of each institution, but how do Concordia’s security features measure up to the other institutions in the tri-college consortium?

Campus Building Doors

All three colleges’ residence hall exterior doors are locked 24 hours a day from anyone who does not have a key. Concordia’s residence halls were installed with FOB just a few years ago, preventing anyone who does not have a FOB key from entering. Jim Meier, dean of student life, said that while there were no security problems on campus that demanded that the step be taken, Concordia decided to take the proactive approach and move in the direction of providing another level of security for campus. There are currently eight other buildings on campus with FOB readers that can be locked electronically: Knutson Campus Center, Memorial Auditorium, Offutt Concourse, Lorentzsen, the Welcome Center, Riverside Center, Hvidsten, and the Frances Frazier Comstock Theatre.

The last four of the eight buildings listed just had FOB locks installed this year, and MacDonald said he would like to continue adding electronic access to other building on campus.

“Eventually, and ideally, we would like to have electronic access on every building on campus, all 42 buildings, and eventually we will get there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, money, and resources of when that gets done and how many doors get done.”

Notification Systems

All three colleges utilize a mass emergency notification system. NDSU uses NotiFind, while both Concordia and MSUM use e2campus. MacDonald said that about 50 percent of the campus, students, faculty, and administrators, are registered for e2campus. Meier said that isn’t enough and he would like to see everyone on campus registered.

“My big concern right now is that we don’t have everyone signed up,” he said. “I’m having a hard time understanding why somebody wouldn’t take the few minutes it takes to get on that so if something serious happens we can at least get that information to them.”

MSUM uses Facebook and Twitter for e2campus updates in addition to text messages and e-mails. MacDonald said Concordia also has the option of using social networking sites with e2campus and expects to leverage those tools in the future.

NDSU has a cable interrupt system, which allows their university police to interrupt cable TV channels on campus with emergency news alerts. While Concordia does not have the capability to interrupt all cable channels on campus, MacDonald said they can interrupt channels 3 and 5 with live messages and graphics, as well as the screens in Knutson Campus Center.


Concordia has 10 public safety officers, half are full-time employees and half are part-time. MSUM has three full-time public safety officers and 14 student employees, according to MSUM’s director of security, Michael Parks. Bill Vandal, chief of police at NDSU, said their campus has 17 sworn and licensed police officers and two public safety officers. The difference between a public safety officer and a police officer is that the latter can carry a weapon and have the power of arrest, while public safety officers do not.

All three campuses have an escort program for students who would like an officer to accompany them when walking through campus. Concordia’s program, SAFEWalk, is available at all times and averages 4-6 requests per day. MacDonald said he’s uncertain if that’s a good number because there are other alternatives.

“We’d like to see more, but if people are walking in well-lit areas, and using the buddy system, and moving around campus safely, that’s OK too,” he said.

MacDonald also said the security staff does a weekly check of campus for any burnt-out lights or overrun shrubbery that may increase risk for students walking at night. They check campus every Sunday and turn in requests for maintenance to Facilities Management the next day so unsafe items are addressed as soon as possible.

Concordia has recently implemented the Adopt-an-Officer program. The program assigns an officer who is interested in the program to a specific residence hall for the duration of the school year. The officer acts as a liaison between security and the residence hall, attends hall meetings, and conducts or organizes programs on self-defense and personal safety issues.

Blue Light Phones

One security feature where Concordia falls behind the other two campuses is blue light phones. Currently, Concordia only has one, located south of Memorial Auditorium. In comparison, MSUM has 11 and NDSU has 24. Blue light phones became popular in the early 1990s before cell phones were widely popular. Jim Meier said that because of the rise of cell phones, blue light phones may not be as valuable as they once were.

“Almost everyone owns one it seems, and almost everyone is on it most of the time,” he said. “That allows for instantaneous communication. At some level they don’t have as much value as they did initially, but that’s not to say they have no value and we are looking at adding more.”

Concordia is investigating the possibility of more blue light phones. According to MacDonald, the current Student Government Association has expressed an interest and MacDonald has provided the SGA Facilities and Services Commissioner, sophomore Greg Clark, with the price estimate per phone.
“So that subject is actually on the upturn,” MacDonald said, “there’s more interest in it now than there has been.”

“The Concordia Bubble” Has No Gates

Despite the many security features and programs in place on Concordia’s campus, MacDonald wants students to keep in mind that Concordia is not isolated from Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding community.

“Statistically, we’re a safe campus. Statistically, the Midwest is safer than the coasts,” he said. “But we have to keep in mind that we are in a population of 150,000 people, whether it’s in Cass or Clay County, and we’re right in the middle of it.”

Meier agrees, and said Student Affairs is always studying security and updating features because the environment and technology are always changing.

“[Campus security] is something that is critically important in this day and age where we’re all kind of uncertain about what goofy things can happen…like the break-in across from campus,” he said. “The better prepared we are, the better.”

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