NEWS

Virginia Tech, Kaine Lobby for Campus Security Study

By Matthew Harwood

Governor Timothy Kaine (D-VA) and Virginia Tech, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, are lobbying Congress for federal money to study ways to secure open public environments from the mass killings that occurred at VT ten months ago and last week at Northern Illinois University.

They seek a $1 million budget earmark to do the proposed study but face federal rules that make colleges and state universities ineligible to receive direct federal homeland security aid.

Robert P. Crouch Jr., assistant to Governor Kaine for commonwealth preparedness, said campus security "ought to be part of the [homeland security] funding stream."

According to the article:

Colleges receive some federal aid, for such things as training and equipment, through their relationships with local police departments and regional emergency-management teams eligible for homeland-security grants .... Federal rules require states to direct 80 percent of homeland-security grants to localities.

Virginia found a way to funnel money directly to state colleges and universities in 2005 by designating higher educational institutions as local governments, said Julian D. Gilman, former administrator of Virginia's homeland-security grants program. He did this by classifying state-owned institutions as local entities because of their close relationships with surrounding localities, but he could not do so for private colleges and universities. (The paper wonders why Virginia hasn't utilized the same strategy to allocate federal homeland security funds to state colleges and universities after 2005.)

Other funding avenues open to state colleges and universities looking to bolster security include a new grant program soon to be administered by the Department of Education—which will only be of limited help, says Crouch; starting a foundation to raise donations from private sources, like George Mason has done with its new Commonwealth Homeland Security Foundation; and finally, by paying for security improvements themselves. 

North Virginia Community College has done just that, shelling out $194,000 for a low-powered radio system to alert the campus community of an emergency as they commute to one of the college's six campuses. In addition, the college also spent as much as $70,000 for a mass notification system to alert the campus community of danger through text messages and emails.

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