MIT's Task Force on Campus Security has been working diligently since its first meeting on Oct. 2--the day after President Charles Vest gave his charge to the group, Executive Vice President John R. Curry told faculty meeting attendees last Wednesday.
The 23-member task force, scheduled to submit initial recommendations by mid-November, divided into three smaller working groups to address specific areas identified by Vest in his charge: Biological, Nuclear and Chemical Hazards, chaired by Vice President and Dean for Research J. David Litster; Access and Openness of Campus, chaired by Director of Public Safety Anne P. Glavin; and Information and Privacy, chaired by Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine.
In addition, Curry said, a reassessment of key areas of access to "the most open campus I have even been in" is under way. This includes erecting barriers and posting security guards at main gates to control the flow of delivery trucks and other visiting traffic. "We hope to make it relatively seamless to you," he said.
He also invited department heads to help the task force forumulate security plans for department quarters. Discussions have already begun with the Department of Chemistry for Building 18.
Curry provided short progress reports for the three working groups.
Hazardous Materials: The group plans to identify hazardous materials on campus, study current use and practices, and evaluate the hazards. When appropriate and necessary, members may provide lockboxes, security cables and locks for laboratories with biological toxins. The also plan to assure that researchers using toxins have appropriate training.
Access and Openness: In addition to assessing security at the campus's entry points, the committee is considering the need for well-communicated contingency plans for high-profile events and for creating evacuation procedures.
Information and Privacy: There has been a significant increase in requests for information, a trend noted at MIT's peer institutions as well. Current policies appear to be appropriate at the present time. Redwine's group has issued its report.
Curry also reported briefly on several incidents involving reports of suspicious white powder; thus far, none of the samples tested contained anthrax. "We react to everything as if it is a crisis because at the moment we cannot do otherwise," he said.
Faculty Chair Stephen C. Graves introduced a motion to change the dates of Commencement in 2003 and 2006 to avoid a conflict with the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which celebrates the anniversary of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. In 2003, the hooding ceremony would be held on Sunday, June 8 and Commencement on Monday, June 9. In 2006, the hooding ceremony would be on Sunday, June 4 with Commencement the following day. A vote will be taken at the November meeting.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 24, 2001.