Campus & community, Campus news

Campus management of the April 21st Shelter-In-Place

By Public Affairs

Today, May 4th, Chancellor Carol Christ, and Catherine Koshland, interim executive vice chancellor and provost, issued a Cal Message regarding the campus’s response to the recent shelter-in-place , including a commitment to applying lessons learned from that event. Below is additional information the campus leaders have posted to provide the campus community with more information regarding campus emergency protocols and next steps.

The April 21st shelter-in-place event raised a number of questions and concerns about campus response efforts. Campus officials are listening to comments from the campus community and conducting assessments of the campus response effort, identifying lessons learned that will be applied to our future emergency response.

We understand, however, that these efforts will not satisfy all concerns given that matters such as student privacy requirements, pending police investigations and concerns about campus safety will always inform how much information we can release to the campus and public – even when correct or incorrect detailed information is shared on social media, in press reports or via other means.

To learn more about our processes and the changes we anticipate going forward, please see the information below.


During an emergency situation, our first concern in any communication is to inform the campus that there is an emergency and what steps they should take to remain safe. Shelter-in place is one example, and we understand the importance of providing more clarity regarding what that means. We understand that many of you have stated that “credible threat” also lacks specificity. (Police evaluate a number of factors in assessing a credible threat, including assessed emotional state, pattern of behavior and any documented access to weapons.)

We understand the desire to know what is going on – the nature of the emergency, of the threat. Such detail can help inform our actions and help to keep us safe.  Going forward, we will consider providing more such information but there always will be limits. We may need to hold back information as part of the police investigation (release of certain specifics may interfere with police efforts to interview someone who has made threats). We may not identify a specific section of the campus as the area of concern because the situation may be unclear or evolving and we do not want to provide false assurances that only one part of campus might be in harm’s way.  We may have conflicting information about whether an individual in question is on campus, off campus, etc., and consequently our actions will be guided by community safety.

In response to concerns raised about this incident, we do plan to revisit communications protocols.  We will also expand and publicize guidance posted on the web about what kind of communications to expect during a shelter in place or campus lockdown incident, what you might be told or not told while the event is occuring, why the campus may not be confirming or addressing information circulating on social media or in news reports, and how to evaluate the risk of doing things like leaving the room to use the bathroom.

Protecting privacy

During the recent shelter-in-place incident, once the member of the community who raised concerns was located and the emergency action ended, the campus did not release the person’s name.  However, in criminal matters, many records are public, and members of the media may obtain the name and other information about a person in custody, charged with a crime. We cannot prevent reporters from reporting that information, just as we could not stop a media helicopter from flying overhead during the event.

While there are press reports regarding the individual in question, and while some members of the campus community have discussed the individual in public forums, we, as a campus, cannot and will not address specifics related to the individual due to student privacy rights and concerns. We know that there are questions that some of you would like answered, but we prioritize respect for the privacy of all members of the campus community.

Police presence

When campus safety is an issue we always will have police respond first. UCPD considers what is appropriate at any given time – and this may include the use of plain-clothed officers or more of a uniformed police presence. On Thursday, given the heightened alert and anxiety, UCPD chose to have more uniformed officers out on campus as staff and students left their offices. It is a balancing of safety needs and concerns, as we know that the presence of uniformed officers can provoke concern for various members of our campus community.

We know that some of you are wondering about alternatives to a police response. Starting later this fall, a new mobile crisis team will be in operation and in many cases it will be the first to respond along with UCPD, working in collaboration. When fully implemented,  a team of at least 6 UHS professionals (including both mental health crisis counselors and paramedics) and trained peer support workers from a new multicultural peer workforce will be available to provide on-location mobile crisis response. The decision of when to involve police will initially be made by the mental health dispatch operator. If it is clear at that point that public safety is at risk, the mental health dispatch counselor will connect with UCPD dispatch to request police to accompany the mental health team, but even in this case, the first approach will, when indicated, be made by the mental health team. Police would be available, at a brief distance, to intervene as needed.

Campus management of threats

The campus has a threat management structure and protocol that guides the campus in responding to such situations.  Further, during any major campus emergency, various campus leaders, working closely with UCPD and others, monitor and assess the situation, and identify and address emergency response and campus operational needs, such as locking all campus buildings, canceling in-person classes, and issuing WarnMe messages. And those efforts are informed by lessons learned in prior cases here or at other institutions.


We want to encourage those who continue to experience anxiety tied to the shelter-in-place incident to seek support as needed.

Finally, if you or a student you know is experiencing distress and need assistance navigating university resources, you can contact the Center for Support and Intervention .