Simmons says campus public safety measures are ever-evolving

Abigail Meyers, Staff Writer

Six Simmons first-year students responded to an Instagram story asking how safe they feel on both the Academic and Residential campuses after an incident at Purdue University on Oct. 5 that resulted in the stabbing of senior Varun Manish Chheda. His roommate was soon taken into custody and admitted to murdering Chheda.  

It raises a question for some: does this event affect safety measures at Simmons?

 “I always feel really safe on the Residence campus because of the gated community and atmosphere,” said Mariella Johnson in response to the Instagram story post.  “As for Academic [campus], I feel slightly less safe because the doors are left unlocked during school hours.” 

Various safety measures have been enacted in recent years, including frequent security assessments of various facilities. If the buildings do not meet standards for keeping the Simmons community safe, changes are made to fix that according to page 11 of the annual Clery and Fire Safety reports. 

Chief of the Simmons University Police Department Paul Lombardo said that Public Safety noticed that several classrooms in the Palace Road Building and in the School of Management can’t be locked from the outside. “If there’s a lockdown, people inside can’t secure themselves,” said Lombardo on Zoom. 

After ensuring the doors met appropriate standards, Lombardo came up with the idea of bringing lockdown magnets to Simmons. They are a quick, inexpensive way to lock doors in an emergency situation – once the magnet is removed from the door jamb, the door locks. 

Lombardo mentioned that Public Safety is always working on internal policies, such as using vacant buildings including the Park Science Center for staff training in emergency response. 

Brooke Bernard, Director of Residence Life, weighed in on the role of the Office of Residence Life (Res Life) in assisting with roommate conflict in the wake of the Purdue stabbing. During a Zoom interview with the Voice, she emphasized the importance of members of the Res Life community, students and faculty alike, managing their mental health appropriately. 

“We are connected to our students who are experiencing some level of distress… Before it would rise to that level, Res Life tries to be cognisant of those in our community who seem to be struggling” said Bernard. 

Res Life is also connected to Public Safety, the Health Center, and Resident Assistants, in the event roommate conflict escalates extensively. Bernard emphasized the importance of teamwork, especially in emergency response, to stop problems before they start.

“The most important thing is that if any students are aware of any students they’re concerned about…Being able to report that as soon as possible is the most important thing,” said Bernard. “All of us have an obligation to take care of each other.”