Forum: Campus officials discuss safety

At a campus safety forum held on Tues. March 15, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields and University Interim Police Chief Jason Williams answered questions regarding Monday’s security threat. The threat resulted in the evacuation of UW-Platteville campus buildings.

At the forum, Williams listed a number of campus safety measures that are already in place, such as increased lighting on campus at night, emergency call boxes and the text and e-mail alert system. Williams also said that the police department trains for active shooter situations, such as this, at least two times a year.

“That’s why yesterday went as smooth as it did because we had that practice,” Williams said.

After Williams finished, Shields asked for questions from those in attendance.

The first question concerned the use of security cameras on campus. Shields confirmed that there are very few cameras on campus. He said that installing cameras has been discussed in the past, but that he doesn’t expect that cameras will be installed because of this event.

“I think it is very important not to overreact,” Shields said. “The last thing I want to do is see campus turned into an armed camp.”

Shields and Williams were also asked why the buildings were evacuated rather than being put on lockdown.

Shields said that it was because there was no evidence of an active shooter.

Another attendee asked whether pulling the fire alarm was the right thing to do in such a situation.

“I can’t speak for what [the student] did,” Williams said. “He certainly got everybody’s attention.” Williams also said that the response would have been different if it was an active shooter.

Shields said that once the process of clearing people had started, it had to be continued. He estimated that campus was cleared in approximately 45 minutes.

Some people at the forum were concerned about the lack of communication with the public school system, which went on external lockdown because of the security threat to the campus. They said that unnecessary rumors were spreading because students didn’t know what was going on, and that the parents of some students work on campus. Shields said that the decision to put the schools on lockdown and how much to tell them was independently made.

“Part of the lesson everybody needs to learn is what should be communicated and when,” Shields said. “We didn’t spend a lot of time trying to explain, we were trying to get people out of the way.”

There was also concerns about whether the PA system was functioning properly. Some said that they couldn’t hear the announcement or that the announcement cut out half way through.

“The PA system is a work in progress,” Director of University Information and Communications and Public Information Officer Paul Erickson said. “It’s tested the first Wednesday of every month.” Erickson also said that the system would be tested more thoroughly in the coming days.

Others at the forum questioned how the Dubuque Telegraph Herald was able to access the student who reportedly pulled the fire alarm so quickly. The Telegraph Herald posted a video interview of UW-Platteville student David Kalenga-Kasongo online on Monday evening.

Williams said that Kalenga-Kasongo had been asked to wait for officers in a parking lot near Ullsvik Hall, and that must have been when he was interviewed.

The Exponent made repeated attempts to contact Kalenga-Kasongo for comment, but he did not return phone calls, Facebook messages or text messages. A cursory background check reveals that Kalenga-Kasongo, who has a Madison address, is an honors graduate of MATC, a general engineering major at UW-Platteville, and has had at least one brush with the law.

In response to the question of whether the security debriefing session following Monday’s events will be public, Shields said no, but that the results would be shared with campus.

Williams said at the forum that the investigation remains active.

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