Loftin: Campuses Need to Design Security Based on Population

By: Houston Chronicle Email
By: Houston Chronicle Email

***The following is an article published in the Houston Chronicle***

"One size does not fit all,'' Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, A&M president, told a Department of Homeland Security advisory committee.

Loftin, who sported his trademark, maroon bowtie, cited as an example his experience in 2008 when, serving as president of

Texas A&M University-Galveston, Hurricane Ike came roaring inland. For safety reasons, 2,500 students and faculty had been relocated to the main A&M campus in College Station. Loftin said such a precautionary step would not have been possible if the campus population had been larger.

Schools with a large student population and a popular football program produce large crowds, which represent a potential target for terrorism, said Loftin.

"In the fall, we have several weekends where we have 100,000 people in one spot," said Loftin. "We should look at resiliency, not simply addressing collateral positioning by other targets or natural disasters only, but looking at specific targets, mass terrorism directed at universities who have that occasional ability to bring together a lot of people at one very small place."

He noted that the College Station campus faces many safety challenges on football weekends when the stadium, Kyle Field, can hold close to 100,000 people.

Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano responded: "How do you evacuate a stadium of 100,000 people in less than 10 minutes?"

Loftin replied: "You don't.''

Napolitano said DHA has worked with the NCAA on security for football stadiums and security for the "March Madness" basketball competition. "I think if we could create some modules for that, that could be used around the country or accessed online … I think that would be a helpful thing," she said.

Loftin is one of 20 members of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) selected by Napolitano. The committee is comprised of individuals who serve as presidents, chancellors and CEOs of universities, colleges and higher education associations.

In an interview, Loftin suggested that his university had the potential to develop a close relationship with the Department of Homeland Security.

He listed the Bush School of Government and Public Service, the Texas Engineering Extension Service and the university's research programs as some units of the Texas A&M University System that could be used as resources for the Department of Homeland Security.

"I think A&M is a very large institution with a lot of components that really relate to DHS's mission."

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