A vandal has defecated and urinated in several classrooms in two buildings at the University of Nevada, Reno in recent weeks. Few details have been shared with the campus community. Faculty and instructors were taken by surprise when they were locked out of classrooms previously left open.
UNR spokesperson Scott Walquist confirmed the vandalism Monday, but details were sparse.
“There is an active investigation into these acts of vandalism and University police and administration are working together on mitigation efforts,” Walquist said. “Cost of damages is still being determined.”
A source told This Is Reno the vandalism was done to the classroom carts instructors use that combine a microphone, computer ports and other electronics. They estimated the damages at more than $15,000.
They added that multiple departments on campus, including Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities, Janitorial, the Office of Digital Learning, the provost’s office and university police, spent several weeks—at least since mid-October—discussing what to do about the vandalism. “They hoped it would just stop, however, it didn’t,” the source said.
The UNR provost’s office last week sent an email to college deans and department chairs advising that faculty should lock all “centrally scheduled” classrooms when not in use.
“In the Senior Leadership Team meeting held Monday morning (11/06) deans were asked to instruct their faculty to begin locking the classrooms regularly between uses,” a memo to college leadership stated. “Please continue this practice until further notice.”
The memo noted “occurrences of serial vandalism in classrooms across campus” but didn’t describe the nature of the acts.
Those classrooms have new locks installed in recent months that operate with an “active assailant key.” They’re intended to lock the door from the inside or outside to protect occupants during an active shooter situation.
The vandalism prompted UNR officials to order the classrooms locked. According to the provost’s memo, “any faculty member, temporary instructor, or who teaches in a centrally-scheduled classroom must have a key and carry it with them when teaching on campus.”
By this week many faculty still hadn’t been notified of the new procedure and weren’t provided the special keys.
One faculty member who spoke with This Is Reno said they were concerned with the number of such keys in distribution, noting that the security of the classrooms could be compromised should any of the keys go missing.
The campus has dealt with safety concerns related to building keys in the past. On Jan. 13, 1998, UNR Police Sergeant George Sullivan was killed on campus and his keys, service weapon and other personal effects were not found with his body. The campus was closed and university locksmiths accompanied by campus police unlocked every door on campus in a search for the assailant.
A new key system was adopted shortly after the incident to increase security. The campus also instituted blue light emergency call boxes around campus after the murder of Brianna Denison and others who were raped on campus by James Biela.
Active assailant door locks—which can be locked from the inside—are among several recommendations provided by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, created following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“There has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door,” the commission’s report notes.
A number of universities have installed active assailant locks on classroom doors, and according to data from the Pew Research Center, 73% of K-12 schools reported having classroom doors that can be locked from the inside during the 2019-2020 school year.
UNR was also recently targeted as part of national “swatting” incidents directed a higher-education campuses.