On April 25, the office of campus safety sent an email to all students and staff informing them of a police investigation concerning threats of violence to the student body. It was reported that 33-year-old Henry Liu, a graduate student studying conflict resolution, had made death threats regarding faculty. The email stated that though Liu had not been charged with a crime, he had been banned from campus and was under investigation by law enforcement agencies.
After students reported concerns about Liu’s statements, the Campus Public Safety Office, acting in coordination with Portland State’s Coordinating Assessment Response and Education team, called the police. Upon searching Liu’s residence, Portland Police found and confiscated firearms and ammunition. Liu was then placed in the psychiatric health unit of an undisclosed local hospital before being released into the care of his parents.
According to PSU Director of Public Safety Phillip Zerzan, the investigation is still ongoing and under the supervision of the Portland Police Bureau. Liu is still excluded from campus for the time being.
“Threats of violence against the university community are vigorously and promptly investigated,” Zerzan wrote in an email interview.
Zerzan explained that CARE assesses situations involving threats to the well-being of the university community. A multi-disciplinary team, CARE includes the dean of students, mental health professionals from the Center for Student Health and Counseling Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Office of Residence Life and CPSO.
“This team works to address reports of students in distress, students in crisis and threats to the community,” Zerzan said. “Sometimes this can include involving the Portland Police Bureau for additional resources. The focus is on early intervention and prevention. The CARE team and CPSO rely on students, faculty and staff to bring their concerns forward. If you see something, say something,” he added.
In an email, Assistant Dean of Student Life and CARE team case manager Gina Senarighi described the process of evaluating any report of concern brought before CARE, such as Liu’s case.
“The CARE team receives a wide variety of referrals, including interpersonal violence, health emergencies, homelessness, suicidal ideation and more, so it is difficult to prescribe one standard response.
“Every referral is discussed among CARE team members to determine a best course of action, with student well-being and community safety as our main goal. Each member of the interdisciplinary team brings expertise so that we can make an informed decision,” Senarighi said.
CARE is a campus resource that deals with traumatic and potentially dangerous situations and finds help for friends.
“As Portland State community members, whether faculty, staff, students or parents, we play a vital role in creating and supporting a healthy campus community,” Senarighi said.
She stressed the significance of CARE and individual community members’ involvement. “It is important to promote the health and well-being of every individual by learning the skills necessary to reach out, lend support and, if needed, to make a referral. I wish more students utilized the CARE team as a form of bystander intervention to help friends who are experiencing distress,” Senarighi added.
In Liu’s case, the CARE team concluded that the potential for harm to students and staff warranted turning the matter over to the Portland Police Bureau. In cases that may require an armed police response, PSU relies on the bureau to intercede. In other cases, a student might be referred to SHAC, where they would be evaluated for their own safety and the safety of other students and staff, and if necessary, taken to a hospital emergency room for further observation and evaluation.
According to Marcy Hunt-Morse, PSU director of counseling and psychological services, resources for physical and psychological help are available to students through SHAC. Hunt-Morse discussed the role of SHAC as an educator for the PSU community and crisis prevention.
“SHAC and CARE are involved in a lot of outreach to our campus community to educate and promote an ethos of care on our campus,” Hunt-Morse said.
She point out that SHAC provides training on how to identify and respond to students who may be in distress, and how to help prevent crisis and escalation. By giving tools to the PSU community, a situation can be prevented or maintained by a first line reaction.
“If concerning behavior is observed, we want our community to take action and get help for that student,” Hunt-Morse said.