Q&A Archives

President's Q&A, October 2011

October 17, 2011

The following are excerpts of questions and answersfrom Dr. Perman’s Q&A on Oct. 17 at the School of Pharmacy. Some questions came from the audience and others were sent to Dr. Perman at his Q&A email line.

Dr. Perman: Let me start with something that certainly was not planned to be on our common agenda, which was a serious incident that occurred in the Plaza Garage this past Thursday night. It certainly raised concerns of all of us and I am prepared to see what’s on your mind in that regard. I do have Kathy Byington, our vice president for administration and finance, whose areas of responsibility include campus public safety, and I also have our fine police chief Tony Williams to answer questions.

Let me say this at the outset. Whenever something like this occurs it is deeply unsettling and I will tell you I think it is fortunate that we have the kind of personal safety record on campus that we have. Having said that, I acknowledge that even one serious incident or threat is one too many. I understand that. Allow me to ask for some comments from Ms. Byington and Chief Williams.

Kathy Byington: I’d like to start and recognize that our community has reached out and communicated with us about the incident last week. We appreciate all the input we’re getting from people. It does help us to know how it is what we are doing impacts you. It helps us to take a look at what we are doing and make sure what we are doing is in the best interests not only of the safety and security of our University but also in how we work together as a community. So all I can say is thank you for your input, ask that if you have additional things that you think need to be said, don’t hesitate to let us know. Send me an email, I’m happy to get it.

Tony Williams: I’m a very open kind of person so if I could I’d like to just jump right in and get to the burning question. Why didn’t we send a text alert out? When this incident occurred Thursday at about 6 p.m. I was still here. Col. Milland Reed, the assistant chief, and myself actually responded to the scene. I got there before 15 minutes after the incident. Prior to that our officers responded, in fact we got there before the Baltimore City police. We were able to make a very quick assessment, get as much information as we could from the victim while we were securing the scene. What I thought most frankly was how could we get the information out to those parties most directly affected as quickly and efficiently as possible? I was literally standing across the street from the front door of the School of Social Work. So rather than send a text alert out from my phone we tried to identify the specific groups of people in the buildings and keep in mind what time of day it is.

We elected to send people directly into the School of Social Work and into the School of Law to personally notify people that we had had a shooting incident and that we were instituting shelter in place, thereby keeping people in those buildings but they could operate as usual. We did this in cooperation with the city police. We learned very quickly that the immediate danger to our campus had passed and that we didn’t have an active shooter who was looking to injure or harm other people on this campus. So we thought we acted appropriately. We also made calls to the emergency contact people at those two facilities to let them know what was going on and then later we prepared a crime alert that we not only sent out but also hand-delivered to each building on this campus the night of the incident. 

To be very specific, the incident occurred at 6 p.m. By 7:12 p.m. those two buildings were completely restored to normal activity and we let cars in and out of the Plaza Garage and buildings were open for business as usual.

We want you to know that you can count on your public safety department to get the information you need to help keep you safe. Now are we already discussing other ways to do that better, such as using text messaging? Absolutely. But I want you to know that your safety and security is the foremost thing on my mind.

Dr. Perman: Based on the comments of Ms. Byington and Chief Williams are there any other comments you would like to make?

Q: Are the garages video monitored?

Chief Williams: We currently have the capability to do some video monitoring of the areas outside and just within the entrance to the garages, but if the question is do we have video monitors inside all the garages on campus the answer is no. If in our assessment of the safety of the garages it is determined that having video monitoring will benefit us, we will make that recommendation.

We have already taken additional steps to improve the safety in the Plaza Garage, working in concert not only with the hospital security staff but the Baltimore City police. Police are stationed outside the garage nearly 24 hours a day. We’ve also increased the number of checks we make inside the garage and we are working in conjunction with Rob Milner [director of parking and commuter services] to increase the visibility of the roving patrols that he has.

Q: Chief, I have a problem regarding the institution of shelter in place. My daughter is a student in the law school and actually was in the library at the time of the shooting. No one told her about the shelter in place and she was allowed to leave the building not knowing anything in relation to the crime. 

Chief Williams: Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I can’t say exactly what time she left but if we implemented shelter in place she should not have been allowed to leave. We did that as a precaution to keep the scene clear and gather necessary evidence. Forensically once that scene is contaminated we can’t get it back.

Q: Does the campus compare crime statistics to other health centers and how do we stack up?

Chief Williams: We certainly look at statistics for other similar institutions and within our area and certainly all the schools in the University System of Maryland. We’re proud to say our statistics stack up pretty well. They are posted at 2015 Annual Clery Report and I urge anyone who is interested to take a look.

Q: What led you to believe that this person who committed the crime had left the scene and was not looking for someone else to try to kill?

Chief Williams: By being on the scene, by being a former homicide commander with the Baltimore City police, by having 26 years of experience in law enforcement, by investigating hundreds of similar incidents where a person was shot or robbed, and the information I received at the scene from city police and from my own department, I was satisfied this person was not waiting around looking to inflict harm on someone else. I can’t give out a lot of specific information because the investigation is still open, but I ask you to trust your chief to know that if this were a situation where you were in danger we would have acted appropriately.

Q: Dr. Perman, I know one of the things you are looking at is child care at the University. As a chair of a department that has a lot of young faculty who have a lot of little kids, I would like you to update us on where those discussions are and how can I advise them as far as the possibility of new day care services on campus?

When I arrived here I had the opportunity to talk to the Staff Senate and I asked them their perspectives on child care and I was told this was a longstanding issue on this campus as it is on many campuses around the country. 

You know that there is a child care center on campus that we help to support. But it is not our own child care center. So working with the Staff Senate and other interested parties we undertook a survey that perhaps many of you in the room participated in. And we found that what I thought was an issue was indeed an issue. There is a significant desire for adequate, proper, certified child care on campus or close to campus. Many of our people engage child care in their own communities and would enjoy the convenience of being able to do it here. 

I think we could easily support a 150- to 200-child care facility on this campus that would include infant care and toddler care. I think there is also an understanding by the employees and an expectation among the employees that whatever child care might be made available on campus has to be consistent with the market in terms of pricing. Having said that I have to be very clear that there would be no capacity for the employer to pick up the costs of providing child care. But if someone has decided to pay for child care somewhere, we as an employer should be able to make it convenient for them to bring their dollars here.

Having said all that, what can we do? The solution I hope is somewhere in our future. I don’t think it’s a secret that there’s a likelihood the Metro West complex just to the north of my office is likely to become available by the government several years from now. 

Some of you know that there is a reasonably sized child care facility inside that complex. And I’m also told because of some need for remodeling it probably is going to be an up-to-date, brand spanking new center. From my window, it becomes particularly pleasurable for me to look outside my window from time to time and there is this lovely playground that borders Saratoga Street next to the Metro West facility which provides the requisite outdoor space needed for a day care center, which isn’t available in many urban centers such as ours. So it’s all there you see. There is a need, the people want it, and I see a potential way to get it. If everything works out several years down the road it could become a reality.

Q: My question deals with parking. A huge portion of the student body consists of commuters. However, parking at the Lexington Garage is at a daily rate and the BioPark offers semester parking to only 200 students in all six grad schools. Is there any way that we can get more parking for students? Most of the BioPark Garage is empty!

The BioPark Garage is not owned or operated by the University. Its public rate is significantly higher than our parking program. The BioPark student arrangement was a result of addressing a construction issue at the Saratoga Street Garage and my understanding is we have maintained some ability to have students park at the BioPark Garage but I understand that’s not going to be a permanent arrangement?

Rob Milner, director of parking and commuter services: This semester we allowed up to 300 students to park in the BioPark Garage and only 265 took advantage of that. We will continually monitor the BioPark student space as requested by Dr. Perman. The campus lost 300 spaces resulting from Pratt Garage construction and, consequently, we were able to increase the number of spaces rented from the BioPark by 100.

Q: I wish that UM put more effort into being a green campus. At the School of Dentistry, it is common knowledge that the paper recycling bins are emptied into the garbage. Housekeeping says they sort it later, but there is no way that is done. It really is a waste (no pun intended).

I can tell you that the housekeeping supervisors have been reminded of the need to make every effort to retrain the staff on the correct process for handling recyclable materials. I think all of us want to know that putting things in blue containers means they are going to be recycled. 

Gary Viola, director of operations and maintenance: It would be appreciated if anyone does encounter something that doesn’t seem right with regard to the way our staff is handing recycling, please let us know at 410-706- 5000 and we will follow up on your call. I would also note that after the earthquake our recycling center was closed for repairs, which put a strain on the recycling program. But we’re back in operation over there now so we look forward to things returning to their normal state of service for the campus. 

Q: UMB is moving forward in areas of sustainability. LEED, conservation, and efficiency are helpful. Well done with the greening of the campus. Artwork displayed at various locations adds culture, as Baltimore has an active art community to tap. Specifically how much funding can be directed toward sustainability programs, grants, and education? China, for example, holds the lead in green technology, and the main (current) photo-voltaic resource, silicon. We need to cultivate corporate investments/grants for University R&D.

We budget $600,000 a year toward energy conservation projects. All of our new construction projects are built to at least LEED Silver. This building (School of Pharmacy) was recently certified as LEED Gold. Is it enough? I’m sure it’s not enough. It’s a lot of money, but it’s probably fallen short of the resources we could commit with these kinds of efforts. Bob would you like to comment?

Bob Rowan, associate vice president for facilities and operations: I chair the Sustainability Steering Committee for the campus and the problem is really not one of dollars it’s one of behaviors. It’s our time, our efforts that are really going to make the difference. We’re the ones who can recycle paper; we’re the ones who can turn off the lights, use renewable materials, or recycle or reuse equipment so we don’t have to continually buy new things. There is a very good Go Green website the campus has set up (umaryland.edu/umb-go-green/) that I encourage you to visit that spells out our sustainability program and it is full of great ideas and tips so that we can be a part of the solution.

Q: Could you comment on the state’s recent mandate on banning bottled water?

Bob Rowan, associate vice president for facilities and operations: The governor did recently pass an executive order that state buildings should not be purchasing bottled water where there is tap water available. This applies to the individual bottles as well as the 5-gallon jugs that fit into dispensers. The order does allow filters and cooling units to ensure that cool clean fresh water is available. I personally think the Baltimore City water is fine. Technically that rule does not apply to the University System. But politically I think we need to comply with the intent of that order because it is the right thing to do and it is a waste of resources using disposable plastic bottles. 

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