Tech Innovations

32 NCSI Offers Public Safety Self-Assessment Tool

Location: Virginia By Becky Lewis Published February 2018

The tagline on the website says it all: Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation is committed to making sure our story isn’t yours.

And a recently launched foundation-led project, 32 National Campus Safety Initiative™ (32 NCSI™), will help campus administrators and public safety professionals use an online self-assessment to help them work toward the goal of “writing stories” that don’t include mass shootings or any other kind of campus public safety crisis.

32 NCSI was developed using initial funding from the foundation that was also supplemented by other sources, including a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant made through its National Center for Campus Public Safety. It includes surveys that help multidisciplinary college and university officials, including public safety professionals, assess nine key areas to identify strengths and gaps:

  • Alcohol and other drugs.
  • Campus public safety.
  • Emergency management.
  • Hazing.
  • Mental health.
  • Missing students.
  • Physical security.
  • Sexual violence.
  • Threat assessment.

After spending six years in various stages of development, 32 NCSI launched in January 2018 through a partnership with the NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Director of Strategic Initiatives Joseph DeSanto Jones says of the partnership, “We regard this tool as a living legacy, and we respect the tremendous effort and heart that has gone into the creation of it. The survivors and the families have a genuine attachment to 32 NCSI, which is at the core of our work.”

“NASPA is providing hosting that is beyond VTV’s wherewithal,” says Daniel Carter, a consultant who served as program director during the development and launch phases. “We had the nation’s leading experts donate their time and expertise in addition to the funds provided toward development. It’s a tremendous way to access a very thorough program for a low cost.” Institutions of higher learning pay a low fee to use the nonprofit survey, which goes toward maintenance; this fee is further reduced for NASPA members. In addition, 32 NCSI also offers free community resources through a website that provide frequently asked questions and other assistance to parents and students in those same nine areas.

“The VTV families wanted the initiative to serve the entire campus community. The consumer resources are significantly abridged from the assessment process to give students and parents the basics. Many people equate blue light phones with campus safety, but it’s really about policies and resources, not whether there’s a blue light phone between every academic building,” Carter adds.

NASPA became formally involved in January 2017, and the two organizations spent a year preparing for the launch. However, 32 NCSI’s development actually started in 2012, with focus groups, enlistment of subject-matter experts and a pilot project with George Mason University taking place over the next three years. After an initial launch in August 2015, the VTV foundation came to the realization that hosting an initiative of this scope would require additional resources.

“VTV wanted to find the best way to make this work and keep it sustainable, and recognized that NASPA could provide that depth and reach,” Carter says.

“This self-assessment allows colleges and universities to take a deeper dive into critical areas of campus safety and related policies,” DeSanto Jones says. “NASPA provides ongoing professional development on, and benefits from the expertise and knowledge of our members in, areas such as campus safety, and alcohol and drug abuse. NASPA members are heavily engaged in these topic areas and will help us continue to provide additional resources.”

In addition to adding more resources and updating the existing modules, plans also called for expanding the initiative to include additional areas, such as study abroad.

“The families had ideas going in about what they wanted to include, and they didn’t want to limit it to just emergency management. We selected the original nine areas based on the opinions of experts working in the field of campus public safety,” Carter says. “These experts came together to create the actual elements of the survey and I don’t know of any other initiative in higher education that came about in a similar way. It is something that can and will save lives, which is what the victims’ families wanted: to save future families from having to endure what they did.”