SAIS Europe Beefs Up Security Bulwark

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Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati
Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati


Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati
Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati

SAIS Europe implemented new campus security measures on Monday, including installing an ID checkpoint at the school’s entrance and closing the SAIS café and campus to the public, following the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. SAIS Europe Vice Director Bart Drakulich announced the new protocols to students via email on Monday morning.

University of Bologna students and staff will still be able to frequent the SAIS café and will be allowed to attend SAIS events, including SAIS’s Seminar Series, upon presentation of their university photo ID.

Alert was heightened further on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Americans in Italy, saying that Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the Duomo and La Scala in Milan, as well as churches and synagogues throughout Italy, are potential terror targets.

The warning continued, saying, “Terrorist groups may possibly utilize similar methods used in the recent Paris attacks. … U.S. citizens are advised to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings.”

Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati
Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati

Drakulich, whose duties include coordinating security at SAIS Europe, implemented the new security approach in consultation with Bologna’s General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS), Bologna’s chief of police as well as Johns Hopkins’ DC-Based Director of Security, Merek Schaefer.

Schaefer, a retired Secret Service Special Agent, visited SAIS Europe three weeks prior to the Paris attacks to assess the security of the campus. Along with the measures implemented on Nov. 16, Schaefer suggested students wear SAIS IDs around their necks on lanyards and that access points be added to non-public areas, including the student lounge and the elevator and stairs leading to upstairs classrooms. Implementing the proposed access points, accessible with a SAIS ID, is still being considered by SAIS Europe administration officials.

But not all of SAIS Europe can be shut off from the public. By law, certain areas of campus must remain open.

Italy’s Emilia Romagna region – where SAIS Europe is located – contributed funds to SAIS Europe’s renovation in 2006, with the condition that SAIS Europe’s library, which is part of the public library system in Bologna, remain open to the public.

Home to University of Bologna, the oldest continuously operating university in the world, Bologna is known throughout Italy as “La Dotta,” or the educated. SAIS Europe’s mission has always been to be integrated into the educational community in Italy, and Drakulich acknowledges with each new security measure, there are concessions.

“As an institute of higher education and research we are all about the open and free exchange of ideas. That includes with our neighbors and anyone who wants to come in and interact with us,” Drakulich said. “We really don’t want to be an insulated, hunkered-down American castle with moats around it. … So that informs every choice. Every decision we make is a tradeoff between shutting down and opening up.”

Balancing the line between beefing up security and closing out the community has been an evolving discussion, but not one that the Student Government Association thinks will disrupt the character of SAIS.

“I personally agree with these measures. … I understand perfectly Bart’s point of view …. It does send a message that they do know the risks, that they are aware of them and don’t ignore them,” SGA member and University of Bologna graduate Elisa Betteli said. “Considering that it’s not such a strong measure, I don’t think it will have that big of an impact, to be honest. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal for Bolognesi students to show their ID cards. They have to do it anyways in most buildings that are related to [University of Bologna].”

In addition to the new ID checkpoint, SAIS Europe employs a private security firm, headed by a local on-duty police officer, as well as a system of cameras that monitor key points around campus.

The private uniformed security personnel on campus are unarmed, but like other security considerations, the decision on whether to bring on armed guards is being considered.

Monday’s decision to add additional security is just one in a number of changes made to the SAIS Europe campus after terror attacks. The most notable changes came after Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to 9/11, SAIS Europe was open to the public through a swinging front door that remained unlocked throughout the day. After the attacks on New York and DC, SAIS implemented a camera surveillance system and an ID badge system used to gain entrance to the building.

Having been in charge of security at SAIS Europe since 2000, Drakulich has led SAIS Europe through 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, Charlie Hebdo and now Paris, and remains committed to carrying out SAIS’s mission in the face of terror on the continent.

“We have to do things that are in line with who we are and what we hope to accomplish, otherwise the terrorists have won,” Drakulich said. “It’s a cliché but it’s absolutely true. If you change your way of life, you change who you are, you change the reasons we’re here, what’s the point? We might as well just shut down.”


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