/ Modified mar 5, 2023 3:21 p.m.

Fear of "negative consequences": faculty committee that denounced UA's response to deadly, on-campus shooting disbands early

In a letter to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Faculty Senate, the group goes into detail sharing concerns they have faced.

Thomas Meixner Memorial Flowers, candles and letters lay in front of the Harshbarger building sign following the murder of Professor Thomas Meixner on Wed. Oct. 5, 2022 at the University of Arizona. Meixner was killed by a former student on campus.
Paola Rodriguez/Arizona Public Media

This is a developing story.

The General Faculty Committee on University Safety for All which created an interim report that condemned institutional deficiencies at the University of Arizona is disbanding after one month of the report’s release. Members of the Committee unanimously chose to conclude their inquiry due to “concerns that Committee members might experience negative consequences for serving on the Committee.”

In their findings earlier this year, the members identified three key issues: a “fragmentation of safety-related responsibilities and lack of a central risk oversight system, institutional neglect of a known chronic problem of distrust and excessive bureaucratization of safety-related services.” The committee went so far as to say that the university’s approach “established an administrative culture that consciously and consistently disregards employee and students’ safety concerns.”

In their March 3rd letter to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Faculty Senate, the group goes into detail regarding concerns that have arisen since the report’s release. One of their concerns was UA’s immediate response to the report.

At that time, a spokesperson wrote to AZPM saying, “It is not the comprehensive and exhaustive review that the University commissioned its outside safety and security experts, PAX Group LLC, to conduct following the October 5 tragedy. Rather, it represents the work of a subset of faculty that has reached sweeping conclusions based in large part on misleading characterizations and the selective use of facts and quotations…”

AZPM never received a response from the university regarding what specifically was misleading in the faculty-led report. The Committee shared in their letter that due to that lack of response, they feel that members “might face negative consequences.”

According to their letter, when members informed University leadership of their concerns, they were redirected to “connect with PAX to share information, questions, concerns, and ideas.”

PAX is the outside group the university hired to conduct a security audit of campus in the wake of the shooting death of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences Department Head Dr. Thomas Meixner.

The committee wrote that it contacted PAX’s co-founder and principal twice, but received no response.

Members of the committee said the “university leadership has also declined multiple opportunities to diffuse concerns that services on the Committee might result in negative consequences, including hard and soft forms of retaliation. The University Spokesperson’s chilling statement, followed by the University leadership’s silence, has impacted the Committee members’ sense of safety.”

Due to the university's initial response to its report and UA President Robert Robbins’ campus safety updates, the committee’s members believe that it sends “a strong message to the entire community that only external experts selected by the University leadership and who report to the University leadership are positioned to engage in scrutiny and criticism.”

AZPM reached out to officials at the University of Arizona about the committee's letter but has not heard back.

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