Tag Archives: Claiborne County

Lessons on trust in times of a crisis

30 Sep

Driving to campus yesterday was like driving through a cloud. As it often does on crisp fall mornings, fog blanketed LMU. I found it soothing and hoped it would set the mood for a calm and productive day at the office, one I was hoping would allow me to catch up on a number of outstanding projects. However, one thing I have learned in my six years on the job at LMU, days can get away from you rather quickly for any number of reasons. That was certainly the case by midmorning yesterday.

It all started well. I was able to print 1,500 flyers promoting the upcoming start of the basketball season with Midnight Madness during Homecoming. I started to design a series of newspaper ads for all the Homecoming highlights and accepted a couple of meeting requested and updated my calendar. When my phone rang midmorning, I could see from the caller ID that it was Dean of Administration Lisa Blair-Cox. The call started friendly enough with an easy greeting and an exchange of “how are yous?” Then the soothing, peaceful morning shattered as she revealed the reason for her call. “I wanted to let you know about a situation we are dealing with here,” she said. Lisa went on to tell me that someone had made a threat on a couple of people working at LMU. She said that Director of Campus Safety and Facilities Management Richard Owens was with her and they were convening the crisis management team if I would come down to join them.

Well, there went the morning.

As I left Kresge Hall, I noticed a Claiborne County Sheriff’s department vehicle turning around in the parking lot. In our brief conversation, Lisa had told me that we would see a heightened law enforcement presence on campus.  She was right. As I drove the short distance to the student center I saw a total of five Sheriff’s department vehicles on campus. As I hustled into the President’s office, I knew that the rumors on campus must be already flying. Five police cars would surely spark conversation.

Once, in the office with the rest of the team, Lisa gave an update on what was going on.  She reported that the Sheriff’s department planned to remain on campus until the person who made the threat was in custody or their location could be confirmed in another part of the state. They emphasized that it was safe to continue with our normal activities on campus. That made it easy for the crisis team to make some quick decisions. Dr Dawson was in Chicago for the Duncan School of Law American Bar Association hearing, so after a couple of phone calls with him we had a definite plan of action.

The University was not going on lock down. We would post an announcement on Pathway to explain the added law enforcement presence and we would keep the J. Frank White Academy kids in the academy for lunch. Hoping to keep heads cool on campus, the team decided to disband and return to our normal responsibilities.

When we emerged from the meeting, the President’s office staff told us that calls were already coming in with questions. After crafting a message, I posted it to Pathway, hoping that it would relieve some of the burden on the President’s office. The more people I encountered after the announcement, the more I discovered that the message had not put an end to questions.

A statement I repeated many times yesterday was the simple truth. The University was not on lockdown, because the situation didn’t warrant lockdown. I know that it is easy to get swept into the whirl of rumors and speculation and certainly there were a lot of rumors and speculation afoot yesterday.  I heard everything from bomb threats to actual gunmen on campus. As people continued to question the crisis team’s response to the incident, I started to feel my composure slip and to get frustrated with people. Thankfully, I gave myself a gut-check and didn’t let the frustration get the best of me.

I tried to keep in mind that it is not our job or role in this situation to gather or corroborate information on the incident. Nor was it my responsibility to broadcast largely unsubstantiated reports to anyone. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to public safety. As a campus communicator, I am tasked with following the procedures in place to notify our community in an appropriate time and with an appropriate message providing the information vital to public safety. Likewise, the onus is on the community to seek the information from the proper channels.

The University has an e-2-campus texting program where text alerts are sent in case of emergency. This system is only activated in case of imminent threat, either weather or crime related. The Crisis Team did not use this in this case because the threat was never imminent and we did not want to cause a panic. This incident does offer a good reminder that e-2-campus is service that you have to opt-in to. If you have not registered to receive the e-2-campus alerts, be sure to do so. If the information we are distributing warranted an e-alert, it would have had one. Since it was only posted on Pathway, I had hoped it would have signaled, that yes there was a threat made, but it was not one that should cause panic. Had an imminent, serious threat been in the area, I assure you the University has a plan for that and immediate action would have been taken. Certainly, the community can take their cues from how a message is delivered and what is in the message.

For me, this incident can be summed up with one word. Trust. We as a crisis team had to trust that the Claiborne County Sheriff’s department was providing us with the proper information and guidance when making our decisions. In turn, and I think the breakdown in this situation, the LMU community has got to trust that the administration is doing what the situation demands. The community has got to trust that we would not purposely put anyone in harm’s way. The public is never going to be privy to everything that is happening in a public safety situation. These situations are very fluid and information changes quickly; so it is imperative that the community trusts that information that is being disseminated is credible and pertinent.

Along with trust, it is vital that our community be vigilant about their safety, but also respect that policies and procedures are in place to reinforce their safety. The policies have been tested and rehearsed. It should instill a lot of confidence when officials say these things are being followed.


3 Sep

The Claiborne County Relay for Life event last Friday was a great success, raising a total of $137,231.13 to benefit the American Cancer Society. Claiborne County has now surpassed $1,000,000 in giving since Relay for Life began in the county. LMU once agian played a big role in the event acting as corporate sponsor. Additionally, three LMU administrators were a partof the leadership team, the LMU community was represented by three teams and Railsplitter Athletes volunteered with everything from logistics to clean-up.

The LMU faculty, staff and student team, The Relay Railsplitters, raised $5,481.44 for the cause.The J. Frank White Academy used the theme "The Cure is Up There."The LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine team raised $1,346.44.

Why do we Relay?

20 Jul

In a little over a month thousands will gather at the Harrogate City Park, circling the field for 24 hours. Because cancer never sleeps, neither will we.

The Claiborne County Relay for Life, set for August 26, is the culmination of a year’s worth of fundraising for most teams. It’s a time where we, as a community, reflect on how cancer has touched our lives. It gives us a chance to celebrate our survivors, memorialize our loved ones who have lost their battles with the disease and raise funds to further the fight. It is a time when the question “why do you Relay” is asked repeatedly. 

You’d be hard pressed to find someone on the LMU campus whose life hadn’t been touched by the disease. In the last year alone, cancer has claimed two of our own faculty members and a handful in our community remain locked in battle with the deadly disease. It’s the reason Lincoln Memorial University has chosen the American Cancer Society as one of the few causes it supports annually.

Judy Edds. She was a lot of things in her brave life. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, colleague, instructor, caretaker and nurse. In her career as a nurse she comforted the sick, mended the broken and was compassionate to all her patients. For her students, she was a great teacher who was always available for extra help. For those of us who were lucky enough to work alongside of her, she was a beacon of courage. Her passion for LMU and her students helped her fight the disease for years, yes years. She was in front of a classroom teaching less than a month before she ultimately lost her heroic battle. A battle she waged on many fronts. She visited Vanderbilt shortly before her death looking for hope in new treatments. In the end her body wasn’t as strong as her spirit, however her legacy lives on in the cherished memories we have and the bright students she taught. Why do we Relay? We Relay for Judy.


Wayne Wells. Looking through the lens of video camera, Wayne told stories every day. Standing in front of a classroom he gave his students the tools they needed to tell their own stories. He gave them the vision to see things from every angle and find the most interesting view to show. Wayne spent years honing his craft at LMU’s Sigmon Communications Center where he served as operations director. A call to teach sent him back to the classroom himself, as he earned graduate degrees that would qualify him to join the faculty. He was relatively new to the faculty when cancer struck, yet had already moved up to department head of the Broadcast Communications program. Like Judy, Wayne fought with all his might and continued to be dedicated to his students. He was a champion for his pupils, pushing them to take internships and gain experience in the field. He is remembered for his easy smile, sly sense of humor and warm personality. Why do we Relay? We Relay for Wayne.

Besides the University sponsorship of Relay for Life, LMU is always well represented at the event. Usually there are at least two teams from the University community that participate. The faculty, staff and undergraduate student team, The Relay Railsplitters were the first team in Claiborne County to raise over $1,000 this year. The team goal is to eclipse last year’s tally of $5,000. The J. Frank White Academy has traditionally fielded a team as well.

Why do we Relay? We Relay for Judy, Wayne and the entire LMU community.