Committee presents heightened security recommendations to senators, administrators
Immediately after the assault of a student on campus this past February, the Chancellor formed a committee to review the University’s safety and security policies.
The committee, consisting of students, staff, members of the Residential Life Advisory Board and the police department, presented its results to the Student Union Senate on Wednesday night.
“What we’re trying to do is balance everyone’s interests by having an open campus while still meeting concerns about safety,” said Executive Vice Chancellor John Kline and the leader of the work group. “That balance will reduce the number of incidents…and make people safer.”
The Chancellor’s work group reviewed a number of initiatives ranging from preventative education to the installation of closed circuit video cameras (CCTV) in residence hall entrances.
These changes will apply to University housing both on and off campus and are on track to be implemented by next fall.
“The chancellor embraced the recommendations and said ‘Yes, move forward,’” said Don Strom, chief of University Police.
One of the most notable changes on campus will be the installation of card locks and automatic closing doors in the old dorms.
“Card locks are more convenient for the students and this is something that lots of schools are doing,” said Tim Lempfert, assistant director of Residential Life. “There’s a value for the students that comes from the fact that cards are easier to replace when lost, and there is added security because cards cannot be copied.”
The combination of card locks and doors that close automatically is meant to cut down on students who leave their doors unlocked even as they leave their rooms.
The installation of these new locks represents the acceleration of a five-year plan that had been in place to transition from traditional, key locks to card locks.
The installation of CCTV in residence hall entrances also represents an accelerated version of a previous plan. Originally, CCTV was to be installed on a pilot basis.
The committee chose to recommend the installation of CCTV cameras rather than suggesting that security guards be placed in the entranceway of dorms, as some other institutions have done.
“Putting security staff at the entrances to buildings seems to create a lockdown environment. During meetings with students, the committee found that students were not favorable to that type of plan,” stated Rob Wild, assistant to the chancellor.
Importantly, the initiatives suggested by the work group also focused on additional preventative education.
“We’ve already tired to have some basic education by using the RAs to go over basic safety, but we feel that we could do more about education throughout the year,” said Lempfert. “All the new hardware will only have an impact if you start with square one and educate students: education and security go hand in hand.”
In an attempt to expand awareness of self-defense, the University Police department is working to establish a Rape Aggression Defense Program as a course for credit.
At the meeting, senators were impressed with the steps that have already been taken. Some senators expressed concerns about privacy issues resulting from the CCTV program and hoped that there would be student representation on the committee overseeing the implementation.
“I think they’re actively seeking out ways to increase security both on campus and off campus. I think they are doing an incredible job and their response has been incredible,” said Jeff Zove, former speaker of the Senate. “I do think that security needs to be improved in an off campus area.”
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