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Student Intervention Team aims inform and prevent

Cain Madden / The Daily Mississippian
Cain Madden / The Daily Mississippian

Nearly a month after two students were killed at Mississippi State University and Jackson State University, Mississippians are still looking for answers as to how these incidents happened.

Chief Calvin Sellars of the University Police Department said for now, the Ole Miss campus is safe, but the effort to keep this status takes a team. 

“There is only so much that patrol officers can do,” Sellars said. “It takes an effort from many different aspects of the university.”

The University of Mississippi’s Student Intervention Team (SIT) is part of that effort, identifying students who could potentially harm themselves and others. The program started in 2007 and has been headed by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Leslie Banahan. Banahan said the group’s goal is to help students be successful and keep the campus safe.

“A number of years ago, we thought it would be a good idea to have a formal process for addressing needs of students who either (showed) disturbing behaviors or threatening behaviors or were perhaps unsafe,” Banahan said. 

The program began before the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, which many have motivated schools to increase their safety on around campus. Banahan said she believes there were members of Virginia Tech’s administration that were concerned about the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, but the university wasn’t able to look at the bigger picture.

“I think because of what happened at Virginia Tech, faculty are more aware and more inclined to report things,” Banahan said. “I think one of the responsibilities of SIT is to educate everybody.” 

The team members are from key organizations on campus, including UPD, the Provost Office, Dean of Students and housing. Banahan said the group consists of “experienced professionals,” who meet once a month to discuss students who appear to be struggling. 

“We’re looking at behaviors, so the idea behind having this eight or nine person team is that typically if the student is showing signs of distress or disruptive behavior in one part of his or her life, it’s probably also happening in another,” Banahan said. 

When a student has been identified, the group takes a look at the student’s life as a whole, checking with the Provost’s office to see the student’s grades, going to UPD to check the student’s arrest record and checking with housing to see if his or her RA has noticed any irregular behavior.

“We are at a place where emotions run high just in classroom discussions,” Sellars said. “You have a class with people with opposing views, and sometimes the discussions get to the point of arguments. Any place that I think emotions run so high, I don’t believe people need firearms.”

Banahan said she credits the number of weapon-related incidents on college campuses to the steady increases in enrollment.

“There are students attending college today who 10 years ago wouldn’t be able to,” she said. “They take medication to help them function, and what I think sometimes happens is that students who take medication for depression or bipolar disorder and they come to college and don’t want to take the medicine, they want to be like everyone else. I think we have more people in general who are damaging their intellectual health issues.”

For more information on SIT visit http://www.olemiss.edu/orgs/sit/.