Campus safety program introduced during senate meeting

Kognito, a web-based program to help faculty learn how to approach students with mental and emotional distress, was introduced to the Pierce Academic Senate on Monday.

The program link will be sent via a mass email to all the faculty and staff of Pierce College.

“We hope to increase awareness of students’ behavior,” said Student Health Center Director Beth Benne, who introduced the program to the senate. “The objective of this training is to learn how to recognize the common signs, how to approach students with approved skills, and how to refer students to the health center.”

Kognito’s “At-Risk for Faculty and Staff” program is an interactive online simulation that allows faculty to engage in conversations with five different avatars showing signs of psychological distress. The program allows for the responses the person chooses to dictate which way the conversation will conclude.

“The ultimate goal is prevention. Get in early, that’s the bottom line,” Benne said.

Due to rises in mass shootings on school campuses across the nation, Pierce has taken steps to prepare the college in the event that a shooting occurs on site.

For instance, an active shooter training seminar has increased awareness about campus safety at Pierce.

Kognito has been provided for no cost to Pierce as well as five other colleges in District Nine due to the California Mental Health Services Authority grant, CalMHSA, initiated by Proposition 63.

Tom Rosdahl, president of the Academic Senate, learned of this program for the first time during the meeting on Monday.

“I’m assuming that by going through the program we can get some good ideas to deal with students, to know what type of questions to ask and to be compassionate for these students,” Rosdahl said.

Benne is in the process of getting the Associated Students Organization, the student government, to approve this program to be extended to the students.

During the meeting, it was also announced by Kathleen Burke-Kelly, college president, that 14 positions to be hired have been approved, and that number could increase to 20.

“There are at least two positions that I have asked to be approved, and we could go as high as 20,” Burke-Kelly said. “Once we get beyond 20, I think it becomes difficult for us to hire.”

The Academic Senate meets on alternate Mondays at 2:15 p.m. in the Campus Services Building Conference Room.