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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Public Safety: Open 24/7

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tuesday evening, a provocative story came across our desk. Jon McBride, father of Katherine McBride ’08, had been corresponding with the St. Olaf College Administration in regards to the failure of the school’s Public Safety to respond to an emergency call in the early morning of Aug. 29. At 1:15 a.m., Katherine, who is a Resident Assistant and was on campus early in Thorson Hall, had an asthma attack while in her dormitory. She contacted Public Safety, but received no answer. She then called her mother, a physician. While attempting to calm her daughter’s asthma, she was cut off, re-dialed, but received no answer. The situation now having escalated, Katherine’s mother contacted her father – whose “fear was [that] Katherine had passed out from lack of air and was lying in the stairwell” (McBride: 9/8 Letter) – who also attempted to contact the 24-hour Public Safety dispatch. According to his letter, he received no answer after two attempts and then called the Northfield Police Department, which then dispatched an ambulance and ensured Katherine’s safety.

“At this time I again dialed the St. Olaf’s 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch telephone number. After numerous rings an unknown male answered the line. I told [the situation and] that I needed a responder to be dispatched to Thorson Hall concerning my daughter’s inability to breathe … The individual who answered the phone told me he was “busy” and would not provide a response” (McBride: 9/8 Letter).

McBride then called Director of Campus Security Fred Behr and, after explaining the situation, was hung up on.

Later that morning, McBride contacted the offices of President Anderson and, after speaking with multiple administrative assistants, was contacted by Fred Behr who, according to McBride’s letter, was “unapologetic” and told him that “the 24-Hour Public Safety Dispatch number was routed to the maintenance department during this period to save money and that my daughter had ‘fallen between the cracks’” (McBride: 9/8 Letter).

After the events of Aug. 29, McBride sent the letter from which I am quoting to President Anderson, which is too large to reproduce in full. President Anderson responded to the letter, promising to change the response situation in the future: “I am sorry that you were not able immediately to connect with a person who could assure you that help was on the way. We believed that we had a system in place that was workable, but it did not meet our expectations” (Anderson: 9/11 Letter).

It seems the problem has been fixed. But due to his treatment in the matter, McBride remains skeptical of President Anderson’s promise and believes his daughter could have died due to the negligence of the St. Olaf Public Safety staff. After hearing that this may have occurred because Katherine simply “fell through the cracks,” we understand why McBride is angry.

Although the Administration’s treatment of McBride is worth questioning, the real issue is why St. Olaf does not provide the 24-hour Public Safety Dispatch that it promises.

President Anderson responded to the Messenger with the following statement dissuading all fears: “The main point to focus on is whether students and families can depend upon emergency calls to the college receiving a proper response. The answer is yes. Emergency calls that come in during the day are taken by the campus operator. Emergency calls that come during the night while school is in session are answered by students that we hire especially for this purpose. We have just added a new level of response: emergency calls that come in during the night when school is not in session are routed directly to the St. Olaf public safety officer on duty.”

If you have any questions or opinions, please submit them to for further discussion in the next issue of the Manitou Messenger.

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