Director of Safety and Risk Management Bob Jackson responds to students’ questions on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. (Photo by Marielle Echavez) Alongside him were Chief of Police Robert Batchford and Executive Director of Emergency Services Robie Robinson.

By Marielle Echavez, Staff Writer —

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019, UTC’s Student Government Association held a public safety forum in the UC auditorium regarding the gunman scare on campus that happened on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

According to SGA President Stan Settles, the point of Tuesday’s forum was to continue the conversation about campus safety. The forum allowed students to give feedback, share their experiences or ask questions to some of UTC’s officials. 

Students filled the auditorium while eight of UTC’s heads of administration sat on the stage ready to answer any of the students’ questions or concerns.

The eight administration officials on stage included Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Dr. Yancy Freeman, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Jerold Hale, Chancellor Dr. Steven Angle, Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Dr. Richard Brown, Chief of Police Mr. Robert Ratchford, Director of Safety and Risk Management Mr. Bob Jackson, Executive Director of Emergency Services Mr. Robie Robinson, and Vice Chancellor of Communications and Marketing Mr. George Heddleston.

This group of administration have great responsibility in controlling the steps in handling campus safety.

“The administration did a good job of talking about what could have been done better and explaining on how they plan on moving forward from here,” said SGA Vice President Jacey Edwards. “They highlighted how quickly the UTC Police Department, Chattanooga Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies acted to ensure our safety.” 

Many questions were asked regarding UTC Alerts, future safety procedures within classrooms and on-campus dorms, the lack of distribution of information and even the issue behind concealed gun carry on campus.

Those who did not get to speak during the forum had the opportunity to write down their concerns. The administration is currently responding to those who wrote concerns one-by-one.

According to Dr. Richard Brown, UTC received around $1.1 million from the state to put towards campus safety.

“I agree with Chancellor Angle that we should have administered a lockdown,” said Dr. Brown.

UTC Chief of Police Robert Ratchford described the situation saying that the call that was received by Chattanooga police informed them that there was a gentleman walking down the street who looked like he may even be dressed in a uniform, but a police car was not in sight. He took out the gear from his personal vehicle which was parked in the street as he walked home but never stepped foot on campus. 

 “We want to improve the information and the amount of notifications that we do send out, and one of our lessons learned is that we can communicate more effectively,” said Chief Ratchford.

All officials agreed that they should get more information out in a timely, responsive and effective manner. 

“Whenever we see any type of a threat, we are going to initiate a lockdown, then we’re going to respond to assess the issue. It’s a whole lot easier to re-open the campus rather than not doing it at all, “ said Chief Ratchford.

Senior Blake Corman attended the forum and felt reassured that officials were taking responsibility. 

“We do owe you an apology here today because we have created a lot of anxiety. I will tell you we have to apologize for that and not reacting to that,” said Vice Chancellor Dr. Brown. “But we are glad you are present here today because it tells us you care about this and we care about you. We’re going to move forward and make sure we have the best reactions we can in these types of instances.”

Vice President Jacey Edwards wants students to know that SGA’s part is to make sure that they work with administration to have a plan of action for all situations that can impact the student body and to keep in mind that UTC has the counseling center and other services available 24/7 to keep students safe. 

 

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