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CMC president responds to shootings

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

Some parents of students at the Colorado Mountain College Alpine campus in Steamboat Springs called the school in response to the Virginia Tech shootings.They just wanted to make sure the kids were fine and ask about emergency plans, CMC President Bob Spuhler said. He wrote a letter to the seven CMC campuses addressing the issue.The Alpine campus is one of CMC’s three residential campuses where safety is an even greater concern. There are also four campuses without residential facilities. The Spring Valley campus outside Glenwood Springs is one that has residential facilities; the Aspen campus does not.In his letter, he assures people that all seven campuses and CMC’s district office have an emergency preparedness plan and reflects on the tragedy in Virginia.”It was on people’s minds,” he said via telephone. “I wanted to reassure people. Coming out of this tragedy hopefully one of the things we can learn is the importance of paying attention to what’s going on. You don’t want to get to a paranoid state. By the same token we do live in a world unfortunately that’s not as safe as it used to be – or at least the perception of how safe it has been has changed in the last decade or so.”He wrote that each campus has an emergency preparedness plan that includes protocol to follow in various situations. He opted not to reveal too much detail about specific plans.”A key component of each plan is to notify whoever is affected, and pull together those who can help to resolve whatever the situation might be, whether these are people within the college or the greater community,” the letter states. Another aspect of emergency preparedness planning is trying to identify people who are behaving erratically or might need help or counseling, Spuhler said.”This week, we may find that our students and our peers need our support, and we should not hesitate to refer anyone to counseling services and other resources that are available.”He said the campuses don’t have their own police force or use measures such as metal detectors, but that they have close relationships with law enforcement. The letter follows.

By Bob SpuhlerCMC PresidentOur sympathies go out to all of the students, families, faculty, and administration at Virginia Tech, after the tragic shooting that occurred yesterday. Words escape me in trying to make sense of what has happened. I offer my deepest condolences to them, and hope that they will find a way to come to terms with their losses.We are deeply saddened to hear of such a devastating attack. We’d like to think that something like that could never happen here, but even in our small communities we know how important it is to plan for a whole range of potential emergencies. Unfortunately, it has become the norm for all sorts of schools and businesses to have emergency preparedness plans in place.This is why all of our seven campuses, and our district office, have an emergency preparedness plan, and why it is so important for all of us to know, to practice, and to continually revisit these plans. As you know, these plans cover all sorts of contingencies, such as medical emergencies, intruders on campus, and environmental emergencies like severe storms or fires.A key component of each plan is to notify whoever is affected, and pull together those who can help to resolve whatever the situation might be, whether these are people within the college or the greater community. This week, we may find that our students and our peers need our support, and we should not hesitate to refer anyone to counseling services and other resources that are available.Living in a free society we can not totally prevent such incidents as what happened in Virginia, but we take reasonable steps to help dissuade violent actions on our campuses. We work closely with local law enforcement, ban firearms on campus, have the before-mentioned emergency response plans at each campus, and with this incident and the one in Bailey earlier this academic year we have increased our attention to safety considerations.We are also implementing additional measures that will improve security in residence halls and classroom buildings. And this spring we’re enhancing our ability to communicate during an emergency, by putting into use college-wide student e-mail.As a Learning College, it’s important that we learn from crises that occur in our world, and examine how we need to continually revise our own plans so that we can do our best at providing as safe and effective a learning environment as is possible.We believe that a proactive approach which emphasizes strong support services (counseling, advising, and tutoring) provides various checkpoints for intervening in student lives to identify and refer them to the support that is needed. In addition to this, the college is always open to meet with other college, local, and state officials to review and improve our safety procedures. In numerous communities we have had sheriff and police visits to go over our emergency plans and/or physical plants, and these partnerships have been quite powerful learning experiences for us and for them.


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