University News

University releases after-action review executive summary

Carolina will use the third-party review of the 2023 shooting incident to strengthen campus security.

Old Well on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill
(Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Following the Aug. 28, 2023, campus shooting incident that led to the death of UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member Zijie Yan, the University committed to initiating a formal after-action review by a third-party contractor to assess its response and receive recommendations to inform future emergency response plans.

CNA Corporation, which conducted the review, has completed its assessment, and the University released an executive summary of the review May 16.

“The report clearly illustrates our law enforcement and emergency management teams were proactive in planning and preparing for emergencies, and I am incredibly proud of their response,” wrote George Battle, vice chancellor for institutional integrity and risk management, in a campus message. “Now we need to work on ways to ensure preparedness is included in every area of campus, and we are closely aligned with our key external partners.”

Darrell Jeter, Carolina’s director of emergency management and planning, said many of the review’s findings echoed feedback received from the campus community following the shooting.

“It provides for us consistency as it relates to the expectations of our campus community,” Jeter said. “I’ll also note that the review was a comprehensive process. Looking at the details of information the contractor used to help inform their report and their review, it certainly gave confidence that this was a holistic approach.”

To complete its review, CNA Corporation interviewed over 70 people, including students, faculty, staff and administrators and local emergency management and public safety partners. CNA Corporation also reviewed responses from the University’s feedback portal, examined existing policies and procedures and compared national standards in higher education to benchmark the University’s performance.

The review identified six themes to help Carolina prioritize and strengthen campus safety:

  • Preparedness and planning
  • Public safety response and incident management
  • Emergency coordination and information sharing
  • Public information and communications
  • Campus counseling and behavioral health services
  • Safety and risk management

“It gives us a baseline,” UNC Police Chief Brian James said. “It also gives us a things-to-do list — things that we can actually go out and do that will make the campus even more safe than it was” before the incident.

The review provided UNC-Chapel Hill with numerous recommendations, including:

  • Creating centralized guidelines for video surveillance and building safety and security measures.
  • Ensuring consistency between emergency plans and the Alert Carolina System Protocols.
  • Using multiple approaches to prioritize campus and building safety, including upgrading existing camera systems and ensuring the ability for offices and all classrooms to lock from the inside.
  • Holding additional and a greater variety of training and exercises for campus safety stakeholders.

The recommendations help inform the University’s improvement plan, which will turn the report’s insights into strategies to strengthen campus safety. Executive priorities outlined in the improvement plan include establishing a more unified approach to campus preparedness and training to bolster the University’s accessible preparedness materials. The University also plans to improve the language used for Alert Carolina messages and explore ways to best provide updates.

“What was clear from the campus community and what was indicated in the report is an interest in more frequent updates and additional information and details,” Jeter said. “There’s a balance there. Sometimes we don’t have the details at the rate that the campus community wants it. But to the extent possible, we absolutely want to look at how we can provide more clear and concise messaging.”

Jeter also noted that Carolina has already started addressing some of the recommendations listed in the report, such as establishing a formal campus threat assessment program.

James said the review is immensely helpful but stressed it’s part of a never-ending improvement cycle.

“Safety is an ongoing process,” he said. “Even after we accomplish or perform the recommendations given to us by CNA, we will never stop continuously reviewing our safety protocols on campus.”