Faculty assembly addresses active shooter hoax, discusses University response and safety measures

By Madison Dean, Senior Staff Writer

Ted Fritz, the vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management at Pitt, opened Wednesday’s Faculty Assembly meeting by addressing the active shooter hoax that occurred on Monday night. He said “good and bad things” happened for police after reports of shots fired drew Pitt and City police to Hillman Library around 11:15 p.m. 

“I think operationally they had a good response,” Fritz said. “However, we all have seen the issues that came, I would say, largely from not getting out an ENS message in a timely fashion. And when that doesn’t happen, things can go downhill pretty quickly.”  

The Faculty Assembly held a meeting on Wednesday afternoon in Posvar Hall and over Zoom to discuss the recent hoax active shooter incident, welcome Pitt’s new chancellor and review updates on the travel advance policy and network policy. 

Monday night’s active shooter hoax caused confusion and frustration from students when an Emergency Notification System alert was sent out over an hour after the police first arrived at the library. This was the second report of an active shooter near Pitt’s campus this semester deemed as a false threat and called “unfounded.” 

Fritz said although ENS has worked well in the past, there were many reasons for slowness and errors in communication. 

“I would say that we need more training,” Fritz said. “I would say that they need to relook the software itself and I would say that we need to train for this new kind of crime we’re facing that we haven’t before.” 

Fritz said steps are being taken to review the system and shared an active killer training video outlining safety measures like the run, hide and fight tactics to the audience during the meeting. 

Audience members raised concerns about lockdown procedures and evacuation routes for campus buildings, as well as classrooms that don’t have the capability to lock. One member shared that when a student in her class asked how doors should be barricaded in the event of an emergency, they realized that the doors in the Cathedral of Learning do not lock and open out into the hall. 

Fritz said each building has occupant and evacuation guidelines that faculty can review. He also shared the University’s plan to integrate electronic locking systems in the Cathedral of Learning classrooms. 

“Our goal through integrated security is to add electronic security locking to 10% of classrooms per year,” Fritz said. “So anytime a classroom is renovated, it should have electronic locking capability on it.” 

Faculty assembly president Robin Kear also voiced her hope for improved communication and said the school must do better for its students in these situations. 

“I find it heartbreaking that the state of our American society does not make the image of our students running out of Hillman Library a unique image at all,” Kear said. “It’s just a little harder when it’s our students.” 

After the search for a new chancellor remained behind closed doors, Robin Kear said the Senate welcomes Pitt’s chancellor-elect Joan Gabel and appreciates her statement about shared governance, but wishes the Senate officers were included in deliberations for the finalists. Gabel was elected to serve as Pitt’s next chancellor following a vote last Monday from the University’s Board of Trustees. 

“As the only representatives on campus who are elected by the entirety of the faculty, we thought it was important to include our shared governance viewpoint on the leader of our university,” Kear said. “I expressed this formally to the search committee chair and vice chair, but regardless, we look forward to future collaboration and partnership with Chancellor-elect Gabel.” 

Kear shared an update of an existing policy on travel advances and said the change concerns the process for receiving cash advances. Traveling faculty who use cash in countries that don’t accept credit cards or use ATMs can now get a cash advantage through an accepted travel card. 

“It used to be that you had to get a cash advance in advance and then it was a longer process,” Kear said. “But with the advent of one card, you can get a cash advance through your travel card and it has to be approved.” 

Faculty members are responsible for their cash advance and cash must be reconciled within 120 days. The updated policy passed with 34 votes in favor. 

The Faculty Assembly also voted on an updated version of Pitt’s network policy. Brian Hart, a manager for the University’s Computing Services & System Development, said the original policy was created to “assign the responsibility for the construction, design, maintenance and operation” of PittNet servers to Pitt IT. 

“The intention behind the policy revision is to get rid of all of this technical detail that really didn’t have a place in a policy and actually could obstruct the use of it,” Hart said. 

A request to change the policy was voiced in the February faculty meeting where members asked if faculty had the ability to create a private network. Hart said creating a private network not on PittNet “takes the teeth” out of the policy but PittNet supports special network configurations for circumstances like network research. 

The updated policy passed with 31 votes and one abstention. 

“Our aim is to make it clear to the whole university community that Pitt IT is responsible for making sure that network functionality actually works for everybody using Pitt internet,” Hart said, “but at the same time to make sure that somebody can’t unintentionally create a network that could negatively impact the ability of the faculty, staff and students to use the network as it’s in place.”