Safety and security

Problem-based learning in emergency preparedness training

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Just hours after a former student committed suicide in his dorm miles away, college officials discuss the promise of interactive emergency preparedness training in residence halls.

Presidents struggle with messaging, practicality in campus gun debate

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For college presidents addressing guns on campus, responding to concealed carry at their institutions isn't the only problem. Reaching legislators is a struggle, too.

UNC charged student with honor code violation for discussing her rape allegation

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U. of North Carolina student faces discipline for speaking about her rape allegation, after a campus panel dismissed her case and she became party to a federal complaint against UNC.

Presidents in hot seat for not signing gun letter

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As some begin to question college presidents who aren't signing a letter demanding specific gun safety measures, most stay mum.

Diary of a snowstorm (essay)

2 p.m.

Dear Campus Community,

I imagine you have heard by now that the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning, noting the possibility of considerable snowfall for our region beginning this evening. However, because of differing weather models, which call for anywhere from a dusting to more than a foot, we cannot accurately predict the university’s course of action at this time. This might amount to only a minor weather event.

We will make an announcement regarding tomorrow’s classes and operations by 6 a.m. Please stay tuned for email updates.

Thank you for your attention. Enjoy your evening.

Best wishes,

Jack Valtraides
Acting Director of Campus Safety, Facilities Management, Transportation and Emerging Auxiliary Enterprises


3:40 p.m.

Dear Campus Community,

Updated Weather Service models are predicting more significant snowfall than earlier reports. Some are calling for upwards of a foot of snow. Still, there is a very good chance that this storm will amount to only a modest total, so we can assume for now that classes and operations will be on a normal schedule tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience.


Jack Valtraides
Acting Director of Campus Safety, Facilities Management, Transportation and Emerging Auxiliary Enterprises


4:15 p.m.

Dear Colleagues,

As you can see, the snow has already begun, well ahead of predictions. This may indicate that snow totals will exceed projections or, perhaps, that the storm will depart the area earlier than expected.

Again, we will update you regularly regarding campus operations and tomorrow’s schedule.

Please drive home safely.


Jack Valtraides




6 p.m.


We now have approximately two inches of snowfall and are bracing for a major event. The latest Doppler model suggests we may experience as much as 12-18 inches by morning. But hey, this is New England, and we hearty types are used to it. Typical winter around these parts.

Please stay tuned for updates and possible cancellation notices.

Jack Valtraides


8:15 p.m.


A quick storm update. Snowfall totals are now predicted to exceed two feet. Visibility is zero, and major highways are closed. Looks like I’m stuck here on campus for the duration. At least I’ll be able to attend to emergencies should they arise. I bet those of you who made it home are happy.



9:50 p.m.

Hey, people.

The storm brought down a small tree, which hit a transformer and knocked out power to campus. Normally, utility crews would already be on the scene, but it’s just too darn sloppy out there. Repairs will have to wait until at least the morning. Thanks to generators, some buildings are running with limited power. Still, it’s plenty cold in my office, in case you care.



11:18 p.m.


The blizzard rages on, and I’m still freezing. It’s not like I can sleep, anyway, because I don’t have a cot in my office. Even the groundskeeper from "Rudy" had a cot, for cripes sake. So I’ve spent a good bit of time wandering through the semi-lit academic buildings for kicks and giggles. By God, those faculty offices are a wicked mess. What’s wrong with you people? How about spending some of your ample free time (like, you know, the whole summer) tidying things up? Would it kill you?

Dang it’s cold in here. Maybe some of you who lost power know what I’m talking about.



1:03 a.m.

Nothing much going on except a few crazy frat boys running around half naked throwing snowballs at each other. Must be smashed. Bet their parents are really proud. Rite of passage, my keister. In my day, the only rite of passage was joining the Marines. Today’s generation? A bunch of spoiled, self-important brats. Hey, but they pay our salaries, right?

In case anyone gives a damn, we still haven’t made a decision about tomorrow’s classes and work schedules. Yeah, as if you’re all awake reading this.

Did I tell you dilettantes how friggin’ cold it is in here?



3:12 a.m.

So I managed to scrounge up a small space heater, which is barely enough to keep my toes warm. But heck, who am I to complain? I have a steady job, and I make a decent living serving you people. Oh yeah, I make the big bucks and have the plush office and perks like you upper management geeks. Not. Hope you’re warm and snuggly in your McMansions, dreaming of your ski trips and fancy dinners and “conferences” in exotic places. I’ll just stick around here and take care of campus. No worries. Sleep tight.

And for the record, we still haven’t heard about tomorrow’s schedule. Are we closed? Can anyone make a decision?


4:31 a.m.

Anybody awake yet? Are we closed or not? (As if we don’t know.) No, let’s give it another hour and a half. Maybe by then the sun will be shining and it’ll be 70 degrees, and the birds will be singing and sugar plum fairies will be prancing around campus. And I won’t be stuck here anymore, freezing my hind to the bone. Yup, I’ll wait. I have nothing better to do.

Have I told you how much I love this place?


5:57 a.m.

Dear Campus Community,

Due to the severity of the overnight snow storm, the university will be closed today. All classes are canceled. Essential personnel should report to work as scheduled. Please stay tuned for additional email messages, and be sure to consult the university’s website for updates.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure keeping everyone apprised of our situation during the night. I enjoyed working with each and every one of you over the past couple of years, and I wish you all the best. I am officially announcing my retirement and heading to Boca.

All this is someone else’s problem now. God I hate snow.


Jack Valtraides
Former Acting Director of Campus Safety, Facilities Management, Transportation and Emerging Auxiliary Enterprises

Mark J. Drozdowski is director of university communications at the University of New Haven. This is the latest installment of an occasional humor column, Special Edification.

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College presidents endorse gun safety measures

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College presidents reiterated their written calls for stricter gun control legislation in person Monday. This time, politicians joined in.

Testing of sickle cell trait for athletes unwise (essay)

This week, members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division III will vote on a medically controversial and unsubstantiated policy regarding sickle cell trait (SCT) testing for Division III athletes.  Based on the current medical literature, the delegates would be wise to vote against the proposal.

The policy stems from a 2009 settlement by the NCAA of a lawsuit involving the death of a Rice University football player. The death was attributed to SCT, and the NCAA  began recommending that athletics departments confirm SCT status in all athletes, if it is not already known, during their required medical examinations. While individuals can opt out if they agree to education and sign liability waivers, mandatory SCT education and confirmation of SCT status of athletes began in Division I in 2010, and in Division II in 2011. The current NCAA proposal would extend the policy to Division III starting in 2013.  

SCT is a genetic condition involving red blood cells. Unlike sickle cell disease, which can have serious health consequences, SCT individuals do not typically experience any symptoms and may not know that they have SCT.  The red blood cells in individuals with sickle cell disease or SCT can become deformed and lead to health problems. This is known as sickling, and is far more common in individuals with sickle cell disease.

Recent reports in the medical literature have suggested that SCT may contribute to death in athletes. The topic remains highly controversial, with some authors suggesting that exertional sickling has killed or led to collapse of many athletes and military trainees. Other authors disagree, and suggest that SCT screening is unnecessary and may be harmful, and that implementing education and universal safety measures would protect all athletes.

In January, 2012 the American Society of Hematology (ASH) issued a statement opposing the NCAA SCT screening policy as a means to reduce exertion-related illness or death. Other expert groups and medical organizations, such as the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and a Department of Health and Human Services advisory committee, have published papers or statements that recognize but do not endorse mandatory pre-participation SCT testing.  The authors of these papers and statements advocate for further research, education of athletes and coaches, and implementation of safety measures rather than screening. 

Hematology and sports medicine experts are correct in not endorsing mandatory testing because the pathophysiology of SCT-associated death remains unknown. The well-intentioned pro-SCT testing argument is based on limited information obtained from autopsies and case reports, and may not have fully investigated other potential contributors to the athlete’s demise. The presumption that SCT contributed to the athlete’s death because deformed/sickled cells were found at autopsy may not be accurate.  The problem is that the presence of sickled cells in postmortem tissue specimens from a person with SCT does not guarantee pre-mortem sickling.  Red blood cells can become deformed in SCT patients when they are deprived of oxygen. Since this is exactly what happens when a person dies, we might expect to see sickled cells in an autopsy of a patient with SCT. As one author wrote: “Sickling seen in postmortem samples is most likely an artifact of death.”

More importantly, good medical policy should rest on a foundation of evidence-based medicine.  Unfortunately, well-controlled, hypothesis-driven prospective studies on SCT and exertional collapse are lacking.  More research is needed to understand the pathophysiology of death in athletes with SCT, and determine whether screening high-risk populations reduces mortality.  It is particularly interesting that two recent papers on SCT, co-authored by the NCAA’s director of health and safety, David Klossner, and published after the 2010 NCAA Division I SCT rule went into effect, have concluded that additional research is needed to understand the value of screening for SCT in athletes.

Epidemiologists have noted that an extremely small number of deaths in a highly prevalent carrier state implies that other genetic or environmental factors play a role. SCT is considered a fairly common condition, yet only a small number of athletes have presumably succumbed from SCT over the past 30-40 years. The reported deaths also have a high predilection for Division I football players. As one study noted, all but 2 of 19 deaths associated with SCT in NCAA athletes since 1973 have been in Division I football players. There were no deaths related to SCT in Division III athletes, including Division III football players.

The proposed testing method has also raised concerns. Due to cost, the NCAA is recommending that schools use a blood test that experts consider to be inferior and less accurate than more expensive methods.  The NCAA-proposed test does not have the ability to identify other forms of blood disorders. False negative tests would provide false reassurance,  potentially putting athletes at even greater risk. Finally, athlete and military recruit deaths have occurred despite knowledge of sickle cell trait in the individual.

While the NCAA should be praised for its interest in athlete safety, it has misrepresented medical data in its quest to mandate SCT testing for all athletes.  For example, in the October 2012 NCAA DIII monthly update the NCAA stated that: “Another study, published in 2012, concluded that student-athletes with sickle cell trait have a relative risk of exertion-related death that is 37 times higher than those without it.” However, the original paper notes that: “All deaths associated with SCT occurred in black Division I football athletes. The risk of exertional death in Division I football players with SCT was 37 times higher than in athletes without SCT.”  

That is an important distinction when considering a screening program that would annually affect thousands of athletes. The same NCAA Division III update also stated that “13.6 percent of Division III schools that participated reported removing a student-athlete with sickle cell trait from a competition, practice or workout because they were concerned they may be developing a dangerous condition secondary to their sickle cell trait status.” However, supporting evidence that patient symptoms were due to complications from SCT is not provided, and their condition cannot be attributed to SCT.  The NCAA’s assertion that “the knowledge of a student-athlete’s sickle cell trait status can lead to appropriate precautions and interventions” is not supported in the available medical literature and remains controversial.

The cost of an SCT screening program, while secondary to an institution’s interest in protecting its students, must also be considered.  The NCAA-published basic solubility test costs between $8.50 and $32.50 per test. The $8.50 test does not include phlebotomy costs, which would add $5 to $10 per test.  Some schools do not have easy access to the lab associated with the NCAA pricing and are looking at costs as high as $75 per athlete tested.  Administrative costs associated with tracking results and compliance have not been included in the NCAA analysis and could place a significant burden on DIII sports medicine departments, which typically have fewer resources than other NCAA divisions. Most importantly, the cost of an unproven screening program may divert funding away from other important health issues.

Rather than succumb to fear or the NCAA’s institutional momentum, the Division III delegates voting on the SCT screening measure should base their vote on sound scientific principles and recognize that many caring and responsible physicians and medical organizations have opposed screening for SCT.  The NCAA has exaggerated existing medical data and is promoting use of an inferior screening test that may lead to false reassurances. 

The delegates would be wise to pass a measure that promotes further research on the role of SCT in exertion related collapse and death, emphasizes education of athletes around SCT and other issues that may cause harm, promotes a voluntary testing process that includes a personal discussion between an athlete and their physician, and most importantly, adopts universal safety precautions and measures to enhance the safety of all athletes.

Mark Peluso is medical director and head team physician at Middlebury College. Paul Berkner is the medical director and team physician at Colby College. Both are active in national sports medicine and pediatric groups.

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2 killed at Kentucky community college

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2 killed at community college in Kentucky. Financial aid director shot at Stevens Institute of Business & Arts. Plus a compilation of articles on gun violence and higher education.

Compilation of articles on guns and higher education

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A compilation of Inside Higher Ed articles from the last two years about gun issues as they affect colleges and universities. Connecticut killer was briefly a student at Western Connecticut State, which suffered losses at Sandy Hook school.


Crime rankings set off new debate on their validity

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Should colleges be ranked based on crime statistics? And if they should, why are two prominent rankings yielding such different results?


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