Threat Assessment and Management

Mission 
Team Composition 
Purpose
Team Process
Early Intervention is Essential 
Identifying Concerning Behavior 
Reporting Imminent Risk 
Reporting Concerns
Trusting Your Intuition 
What You Need to Share 
What will Happen to the Information you Share 
How to Share your Concern


Harvard University is committed to providing a safe learning, working, and living environment for its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. In the fall of 2012, senior University officials endorsed the creation of the Harvard University Behavioral Assessment and Consultation Team (BACT). The creation of the team formalizes the process that has been used to handle disruptive, disturbing or threatening behaviors that could affect the campus. The team is intended as a multidisciplinary resource to provide University officials and others with expertise and counsel when confronted with a situation that presents a risk to the safety of the campus.

Mission
BACT is committed to employing a proactive, collaborative, coordinated, and fact-based process. Working in concert with the school or department, BACT seeks to bring its expertise to the identification, assessment, consultation, intervention, and management of situations that pose, or may potentially pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.

Team Composition
BACT is an interdisciplinary team consisting of subject matter experts from law enforcement, mental health services, academic services, human resources, student affairs, employee assistance, and legal counsel.

Purpose
BACT is not an administrative, treatment or disciplinary body; rather it is designed to provide expertise, information, recommendations, and referrals to those dealing with threatening or disruptive situations. It does not adjudicate, discipline or impose sanctions against any member of the University, nor does it provide or mandate treatment.

Team Process
BACT is available to all members of the Harvard community, and its approach in a given case may include some of the following steps:

  • Accept reports of situations that may pose a danger to the community.
  • Conduct an initial assessment of a report to determine, on the basis of the report and other readily available information, whether the situation warrants the opening of a formal case by the BACT. In general, the staff to the committee will conduct this initial assessment in communication with the co-chairs as appropriate.
  • Where the situation warrants further review, the committee or individual members may:
    • Gather additional information and take other steps to understand the situation better;
    • Assess the information
    • Provide advice or guidance to the affected school or department
  • Help to manage the situation.

Early Intervention is Essential
Working with University administrators to support the safety and well-being of the campus community is a responsibility of all members of the Harvard community.  Campus safety is enhanced when community members identify behaviors of concern and report them promptly. Early identification of concerns allows the University to intervene more effectively to address behaviors that pose risks to the learning, working, and living environment of Harvard University.

Identifying Concerning Behavior
There are many behaviors that may cause concern for the safety and well-being of an individual, or the campus as a whole. The following is not an exhaustive list but provides examples of behaviors that, if observed, should be shared with your school or department administrator in a timely manner.

  • References to harming a person, a group of people, or the community through a violent or destructive event.
  • An unusual focus on death.
  • Articulated plans, vague or specific, to bring weapons to the workplace, classroom, or living spaces.
  • Bullying behavior.
  • Contextually inappropriate responses such as angry outbursts (especially uncharacteristic outbursts) or unusually or disproportionately intense negative reactions.
  • Agitated reactions to changes in policies and procedures.
  • Preoccupation with weapons, violent events or persons who have engaged in violent acts.
  • Statements indicating approval of the use of violence to resolve a problem.
  • Threatening postings on posters, flyers, websites, or other media.

Additional behaviors that should warrant concern about risk to the self and/or others may include but are not limited to:

  • Significant, unusual, or sudden changes in behavior that suggests that an individual is in severe distress.
  • Evidence of depression, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts/plans.
  • Extreme reaction to a loss, setback or traumatic event.

Reporting Imminent Risk
Persons who become aware of situations that pose an imminent threat to the safety of the community or any one of its members, including self-harm, should notify the Harvard University Police Department immediately at 617-495-1212. Persons who become aware of potential situations that might pose a threat to the safety of the community or one of its members, including self-harm, are encouraged to consult with their school or department administrators who will follow-up with a member of BACT in a timely manner.

Reporting Concerns: “It may be nothing, but..."
BACT is not designed to remedy routine workplace or student conflicts or behavior issues. However, if you have concerns about a person’s alarming or disruptive behavior that you believe could lead to a dangerous situation, even if you think it may be nothing, you are encouraged to share the information with your school or department administrator. The information you provide, no matter how minute it may seem by itself, may be critical to understanding a broader range of problematic or threatening behavior. 

Your concern may turn out to be nothing, but it also may be something very important. Let our team decide if the person you know needs assistance. By sharing your concern with us, you will allow the team to help you, him or her.

Trusting Your Intuition
It's always a good habit to trust your intuition -- especially when dealing with a potentially threatening situation. Listening to your "uh oh" feeling and reporting a person or situation that is of concern to you is extremely important. It is natural to rationalize or deny that a concern or threat may exist. We ask that you overcome that by considering the following:

  • You may only be aware of one piece of a bigger puzzle.
  • You may not be aware of a person's history.
  • Coming forward and contacting a resource with which you feel comfortable may be critical for bringing awareness of a potential threat and help to the individual.
  • Information that you feel is not worthy of attention may in fact be critical information for others to recognize a pattern or potential threat. This is because threat assessment professionals rely on gathering as much information as possible, oftentimes from a variety of sources and use this information to create an assessment of potential violence.

What you need to share
When providing information, please include the name of the person you are concerned about, the behaviors you observed, and your name. While the BACT does accept anonymous reports, if you do not identify yourself, the committee has fewer options for addressing the situation you are concerned about.

What will happen to the information you share
If you report concerns, your identity and the information you share will be treated privately and as confidentially as possible, with your safety in mind. The information you provide will be used to respond to the situation respectfully, appropriately, timely, and with the goal of protecting the dignity of all involved parties.

How to share your concern
If you are aware of an emergency or immediate safety concerns, call the Harvard University Police Department immediately at 617-495-1212.

If you are concerned about threatening behavior or a disturbing situation that is NOT an emergency event, contact your school or department administration or the University’s BACT team staff person, Steven Catalano at the 617-495-9225 or steven_catalano@harvard.edu.