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Task Force on Campus Security
Presents Initial Findings

John R. Curry

The Task Force on Campus Security, appointed at the beginning of October 2001, was charged by President Vest “to assist MIT in setting policy and planning for heightened security and safety for the immediate and the longer-term future. Issues include protection of campus people, facilities, and environment, and protection against dangerous or inappropriate release of information and materials. In considering these security issues, the Task Force needs to strike an appropriate balance among the needs for physical security, the openness of our environment and culture, and the well-being of our diverse community.”

Dr. Vest’s letter of appointment to members noted that he expected that the Task Force would occasionally meet as a whole but that much of the work would be conducted in smaller working groups, augmented as needed by experts. That is the way the Task Force proceeded.

Specific areas to be addressed by Task Force working groups included: Access and Openness of the Campus; Biological, Nuclear, and Chemical Hazards; Information Policy and Privacy Issues; and any other related topics or issues that came to light.

Task Force members were named on October 1st, and the group held its first meeting the next day. We formed the three working groups noted above and also have kept in touch with other related security efforts, such as the Institute Toxic Chemicals Committee and the Facility Protection Team that Chief Facilities Officer Victoria Sirianni established in the Department of Facilities.

Understanding that the world has changed since September 11th, the Task Force and its working groups considered what adjustments to our current policies and practices might be required to strike a balance between the need for greater security and the open culture and way of operating that have served us well.

In many ways, our efforts focused on old issues – openness, community, personal safety, hazardous materials management, environmental sensitivities, vehicular access – through the new conceptual lenses of September 11th.

Attempting to see MIT as others might, the Task Force noted in particular these observations from Dr. John H. Marburger, President Bush’s Science Advisor, in his November 12, 2001 address to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges Council on Governmental Affairs: “As I see it, terrorism and higher education intersect in three categories of issues: the assets colleges and universities possess for waging the War on Terrorism; the vulnerabilities colleges and universities possess for exploitation by terrorists; and the vulnerabilities of colleges and universities to societal responses to war.”

The Task Force focused on the latter two of these, mindful that universities may be challenged with the issue of increasingly policing themselves or being subjected to more government scrutiny and regulation.

Headlines from the Task Force Report are:

1. There are few, if any, measures that will protect people and property from the dedicated terrorist attack.

2. There are broad and systematic initiatives that will enhance safety and security across the campus and reduce the probability of some kinds of terrorist attacks:

a. restricting vehicle access around the perimeter of the campus by erecting physical obstacles and through gate control (this has already begun through the placement of temporary Jersey barriers and increased numbers of parking attendants at gates and on lot patrol);

b. restricting delivery access to the campus core through perimeter receiving and check-point control (under review);

c. automating locks and monitors for key buildings and rooms, especially where hazardous biological, chemical, or radioactive materials are stored or used (underway in three key buildings); degrees of security should be in proportion to risk;

d. developing materials management and monitoring systems to track deliveries, storage, and disposition (underway as part of the Environmental Management System);

e. improving lighting in hallways, around key buildings and along walkways (a systematic review is complete);

f. adding emergency phones where strategic (10 additional phones are already proposed); and

g. providing awareness training to all members of the MIT community – drawing on the effectiveness of neighborhood watch programs; and integrating security training with related environmental, health and safety programs.

3. We will refine our emergency response protocols, evacuation plans, and recovery programs in order to be even better prepared if crisis strikes. Intense work is underway, with special attention to responses to biologic and chemical attack agents. Preparation and response capabilities will be sustained through communications, rehearsal, and periodic updates.

4. We should see ourselves from a security perspective as others see us. Thus, even as we have complied with increased security measures promulgated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have assured ourselves of the very high levels of safety and security of the MIT research reactor, we commissioned an external review for additional perspective.

5. An analysis of blast protection capabilities of perimeter and strategic buildings has been conducted. We also have solicited proposals for a broad study of campus security, including architectural, electronic, and other operational aspects of our systems, and we will soon commission that work as well.

6. We have analyzed relevant statutes governing our protocols for responding to external requests about members of the campus community and found that policies developed over many years serve us well in these new times. We also have reviewed the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 2001 USA Patriot Act to assess compliance capabilities and likely future issues needing monitoring and response. (Please see Dean Redwine’s companion article for a full review.)

7. We have reviewed air and water intake and distribution systems and recommend that we continue to assess vulnerabilities and to determine how to identify and remedy possible contamination in critically timely ways. Similarly, we have reviewed key business vulnerability and continuity concerns attending utility production and data and communication capabilities. This work should continue.

8. We recommend that a standing Presidential committee be formed to continue the work of the Task Force in assessing risks, monitoring and prioritizing the recommendations made above, and in dealing with new security issues as they arise – as they surely will. A key charge to the new committee will be continuing examination of the tradeoffs between increased security and our traditions and requirements of openness.

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