Editorial: Campus security needs closer inspection

Published March 19, 2013

The University of Central Florida in Orlando was lucky Monday when a dormitory resident who had gone on a weapons-buying spree, plotted a violent mass attack and pointed a gun at his roommate instead committed suicide as police responded. But the incident highlighted a security lapse in the university's policies. The man had been living in a campus dormitory for months even though he had not been enrolled in the university since December. UCF officials are now wisely reviewing their policies, and other Florida universities should do the same to ensure that good intentions do not breed dangerous situations.

UCF police found former student James Seevakumaran dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his room in the 500-resident dormitory when they responded to his roommate's 911 call. Police discovered the 30-year-old had amassed a cache of weapons and homemade explosives, including a .45-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber tactical assault rifle, high-capacity ammunition magazines and approximately 1.000 rounds of ammunition. They also found plans to attack UCF students.

While UCF avoided a catastrophe, Seevakumaran should not have been living in the dormitory. Like the University of South Florida in Tampa, UCF requires on-campus housing residents to be registered students. Seevakumaran missed the university's final January deadline to register for classes for the spring semester. He also had not paid for dormitory housing, yet he kept living there as he amassed his arsenal.

Grant Heston, UCF's vice president for communications and public affairs, told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that the school makes rare "compassionate" exceptions for medical issues or a family crisis to allow an unregistered former student to remain in a dormitory. That's understandable, but neither of those circumstances appear to apply to Seevakumaran. "Clearly, this is something we need to look at," Heston said, noting the only other known unregistered student living in UCF housing has been removed from the campus.

Police were still at a loss Tuesday for a potential motive for Seevakumaran's actions. And certainly, just keeping unregistered students off campus is no guarantee a campus is safer. But universities have an obligation to students, faculty and staff to follow their procedures. UCF and other Florida universities can learn from this close call.