EKU at "Vanguard of Campus Safety" with Aggression Prevention System

photo of CAPS training

As a beta site nationally for its implementation of the Campus Aggression Prevention System (CAPS), Eastern Kentucky University is at “the vanguard of campus safety.”

So says John D. Byrnes, founder and CEO of the Center for Aggression Management, who was on the Richmond campus recently to help train dozens of EKU staff and faculty in the use of CAPS, which is based on the measurement of emerging aggression.

Because CAPS is grounded in the principles of prevention and mitigation, it meshes well with the University’s Student Assistance and Intervention Team, according to Dr. Claire Good, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students. The core members of the team, which has met regularly for the past two years to discuss potential developing situations and work toward policy development, are Good; Dr. Jen Walker, director of the Counseling Center; Mark Welker, executive director of public safety; and Kenna Middleton, director of University Housing. Others join the team as situations demand.

“The intention of this team is to take a holistic view of what’s going on with a student, gather information, talk with the student, and figure out the best way to help them,” Good said.

The goal is not to punish students, but to help them get the support they need. “It’s a pro-active approach, not punitive, and has nothing to do with law enforcement or the campus judicial system,” Good emphasized.

Dr. Jim Conneely, vice president of Student Affairs, said, “Our approach when we meet with a student is, ‘Here are our concerns, we care, what can we do?’ The point is to intervene in an earlier fashion, because we don’t want it to get to the point where a person exhibits violent behavior. We hope we can take some positive steps before problems escalate into major issues.”

The aim of CAPS is to track both primal and cognitive aggression, identifying acts of emerging aggression based on an objective scale and then recording those acts in a software-based tracking system. Responders are trained to intervene appropriately to stop the aggressor before serious harm can be done. Use of the CAPS system is another tool for use by the Student Assistance and Intervention Team, Good said, and adds another component in identifying appropriate assistance or intervention strategies.

Byrnes said CAPS features three components: first observers (the eyes and ears for aggression on campus), qualified responders (trained assistance/intervention team members) and the software platform (meter of emerging aggression and longitudinal tracking of aggression on campus).

“It’s another way to utilize multiple resources and incorporate technology that allows us to better serve students,” Conneely said. “It plays to our goal of student success.”

Through the training, EKU faculty and staff will learn to distinguish between simple aberrant or disruptive behavior and threatening behavior and how to identify and report “red flags” more effectively.

Byrnes said that, in learning to objectively measure aggression, EKU faculty and staff will be better equipped to determine an aggressor’s potential for violence and engage with appropriate skills to make the campus safer.

Byrnes also noted an Education Testing Service study that shows a corresponding relationship between aggression on campus and learning. “As CAPS diminishes aggression at EKU, it will also enhance learning.”

More than 60 staff members and a handful of faculty members participated in the initial round of training. “We’ll open it up to faculty and staff across campus soon,” Good noted.

The Center for Aggression Management was founded by Byrnes in 1993. The author of “Before Conflict: Preventing Aggressive Behavior,” he is a frequent presenter for some of the country’s largest corporations, organizations and schools.

Published on January 31, 2011