Security measures to be reviewed

Paul Sanders

Although Nils Hasselmo’s safety has never been as dramatically threatened as it was Tuesday, threats of violence against University presidents haven’t been uncommon, said campus police.
Procedures designed to protect Hasselmo’s safety are already in place. But after an unidentified woman shot a bullet into the ceiling of his office Tuesday, University Police are reevaluating provisions for the University president’s safety.
“The president is the figurehead of the University. Not just Hasselmo, but other presidents have gotten a number of threats over the years,” said Sgt. Joe May, a University Police investigator.
Hasselmo’s office receives about 15 threats of violence against the University president a year, May said. It gets verbal and written threats, some of them direct and others subtle, he said.
When Hasselmo’s staff receives a threat judged to be serious, they inform University Police. The threat is then investigated in order to determine its legitimacy, May said. He added that since last fall, police have investigated three threats of violence against Hasselmo. No charges or arrests were made in the incidents, which May said were unrelated to today’s events.
People who threaten the president are typically dissatisfied students or employees, May added.
No unusual threats were received by Hasselmo’s staff in the days before Tuesday’s incident, and the woman who shot at the ceiling came into the reception area unannounced.
Nina Shepherd, assistant director of University News Service, said a person needs to go through the president’s chief of staff to set up a meeting with Hasselmo. Shepherd could not say if it was possible to visit with Hasselmo unannounced, but said it was unlikely.
University Police Chief Joy Rikala said there are security measures in place to protect the University president, but she would not elaborate. She added that these procedures are going to be reviewed.
“Any time an incident like this occurs,” Rikala said, “if you ask if we are going to review security — you bet we are.”
“This is a public institution. There are no gates and walls. The president’s office has to be accessible to people by appointment and to the public. We don’t want to sacrifice accessibility in reaction to this one event.”