Campus Threat Assessment Team

In response to recent events on campus, Dean Hughes speaks on CNU’s Threat Assessment Team


CNU Campus Picture taken by Savannah Dunn

On Tuesday, March 28th at approximately 2:30 p.m. The CNU Police Department detained a student as a result of threatening social media posts made earlier in the day. 

With rumors spreading around campus, The Captain’s Log spoke with Dean of Student Affairs, Kevin Hughes, to get an idea of what university protocol is for situations such as this. 

 “Whenever we get any sort of report that could be concerning [or] threatening behavior, there is a group of folks on campus that would convene,” Hughes said. “The Threat Assessment team is actually listed in a policy and includes people from student affairs, academic affairs, Title IX, campus police, etcetera.”

According to The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Virginia was the first state to require all public school divisions (both higher education and pre-k-12) to establish a threat assessment team, “With the goal of preventing violence on campus by assessing behaviors and intervening with individuals who may pose a threat to campus safety,” the website states. 

Although unable to get into specifics regarding what unfolded earlier this week, Hughes wanted to be transparent about how the university responds to these types of situations and threats to campus safety. 

Hughes said, “We gather all the information that we have and then we determine: do we have an active threat or not, what’s going on with the situation, what do we need to do to respond to the community, and what do we need to do to respond to the particular individual.”

When a potential threat is reported, it is the job of the threat assessment team to “drop everything…we need to talk,” Hughes said. “Generally what a threat assessment team does is they say okay we are looking at this situation, what is our level of concern. If it rises to a higher level of concern, what are the actions we are going to take.”

While the investigation is taking place by the threat assessment team, the individual in question (whether it be a student, a faculty or staff member, etc.) is no longer permitted on campus for the time being. This is for the safety of everyone involved in or affected by the situation. 

“We are generally going to tell that person that they can’t be here until certain other pieces of information have been acquired from them [or] from other resources,” Hughes said. Those ‘other resources’ could include other police departments, mental health records if applicable, and/or interviews from other people who might’ve been involved or know the person of interest. 

After the individual is told that they are no longer allowed on campus, there are steps that they must take to be given permission to come back. Hughes said, “That happens immediately, once we get notice we tell somebody they can’t be here.”

Part of the reentry process is evaluating whether or not this campus is a good environment for the individual. 

There was speculation that some of the student body was upset that the university did not send out an email responding to this week’s specific situation. While the Ferguson Center for the Performing Arts department sent an email to its students directly addressing the situation, most of the campus was still confused and concerned about their safety. 

Hughes said, “There are basically two times when the university sends a message out.” One of these times would be if there is an active threat on campus. “Then we say, hey stay away from this area or shelter in place, or something like that.”

The other instance in which students would receive notice is if a crime had occurred. “We want people to be aware of this so they can take reasonable action steps and keep in mind that it may not be happening right now, but these kinds of things happen,” Hughes said.

“Absent those [reasons], we are not sending out messages to the campus community. So in [this] specific example, there wasn’t a message about that.”

Hughes wanted to reassure readers that those involved in handling potentially threatening situations have received extensive training on campus and through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. 

He urges that if you hear about something that could be potentially dangerous or threatening to campus safety, don’t assume that campus authorities already know. “We’d rather you keep telling us. Even if it’s 24 hours later. I’d rather people just report it to us,” Hughes said.