Culture of Support

Behavioral Intervention Team works to keep campuses safe for all

January 23, 2017 by Cindy O'Dell
BIT meeting

Parrish Nicholls (center) leads a Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) meeting including Kelly Rico, Executive Vice Chancellor Phillip Doolittle, Nicholls, Assistant Vice Chancellor Jay Warner, Irvine Campus Director Jan Hartz, Assistant Vice Chancellor Loren O’Connor, Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight and Assistant Vice Chancellor Jamie Brownlee

The idea of keeping Brandman University campuses safe for students, faculty and staff isn’t a new concept, but events at other universities are giving it a renewed focus. That’s where the recently formed Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) plays an important role.


In an emergency, call 911
To report questionable activity or behavior, call 949-383-3119 or email safe@brandman.edu.

Almost every educational institution has a BIT, said Parrish Nicholls, the university’s ombudsman, explaining why Brandman University chose that acronym.

The BIT’s mission is to “provide a proactive and supportive multidisciplinary team approach to the prevention, assessment, early intervention, and if possible, remediation of situations or individuals that may pose a threat to the safety and well-being of themselves or the university community as a whole.”

How BIT works

Discussion

Brandman BIT members Loren O’Connor, Saskia Knight and Jamie Brownlee discuss a recent behavioral concern forwarded to the team.

In the case of an imminent danger, 911 is still the number to call. But suppose a person who is normally quiet becomes loud and aggressive, or someone makes disturbing comments on discussion boards as part of a class assignment. While there are many explanations (someone is just having a bad day, a comment meant to be said in a joking manner comes across as serious), events elsewhere have shown that it’s important for universities to investigate further.

That’s where the BIT team comes in. When a behavior incident or potential threat is reported, either by calling 949-383-3119 or emailing safe@brandman.edu, the situation is assessed using the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA) assessment that categorizes the level of the threat both to self and others.

That level of threat helps the team determine what to do next. That could include conflict management, mediation, a referral for counseling, an offer to help with stress reduction or other “soft” referrals at the “mild” end of the scale to calling in law enforcement officials in extreme cases.

Safety first

The team’s goal isn’t to discipline students, staff or faculty but to safeguard the university community by making sure that those who need help get it.

“Even though our students are adults and on campus on a limited basis, there are still issues we have to be prepared to handle,” said Saskia Knight, executive vice chancellor for Enrollment and Student Affairs. Knight, along with other members of the senior staff, Parrish and campus representatives meet as the BIT team to review what actions have been taken and determine what kind of follow-up is needed.

The same is true for staff and faculty as well as students, said Sam Bresler, associate vice chancellor for human resources. Conflicts among peers, new hires having difficulty adjusting or even longtime employees dealing with family emergencies can all trigger behavioral changes that cause concerns, he said.

Just as with students, anything that seems potentially harmful for either the individual or others is put on the BIT team’s agenda and assessed with the NaBITA tool.

Raising awareness

This spring, the BIT team is raising awareness by placing posters at each campus with information about how to report concerns about another’s behavior. Additional information about safety awareness and emergency procedures is also available at https://my.brandman.edu/dept/administration/Pages/safety.aspx. More detailed information about campus prevention policies can be found at Brandman_Campus_Violence_Prevention_Policy_04_01_2016 (3)


What is an ombudsman?

Parrish Nicholls is the director of Title IX, Student Conduct and Ombudsman Services/Title IX coordinator. As ombudsman, he is appointed to investigate complaints and mediate and resolve them. His office handles questions, concerns or complaints about Brandman student experiences. More information.

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