Posted by Kat Kullman
Tuesday, Nov. 2, about 40 students convened in Davis Auditorium to participate in a conversation with Campus Safety Director Dennis Conway and Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun.
The meeting, organized by the Senate of the Student Government Association, was held in response to students' requests for a dialogue between Campus Safety and the students, Calhoun said.
Calhoun began the meeting by explaining that the relationship between the students and the officers is one of collaboration. Conway agreed and described the officers' role on campus. "We've developed a model of working with kids that's a service model, not a law enforcement model. We're providing a service for the community. We don't make the policy, but we enforce it," Conway said.
Conway then invited students to lead the conversation by asking questions.
One of the first questions regarded what sort of sensitivity training the Campus Safety officers receive. "We do close to 40 hours of training in subjects like sexual harassment, diversity and bias response. What I expect of my officers is to be non-judgmental, fair and sensitive; our job is to be objective. But sometimes we need to ask questions that are a little uncomfortable," Conway said. All officers have also attended the New York State Police Sex Defense Seminar.
Conway said he was more than willing to address any complaints about his staff. He asked any student with substantial evidence to back up his or her claims to speak to him privately at any time. He ensured that students would be granted complete anonymity and guaranteed that any complaint with evidence would be investigated.
In this same vein, one student cited several incidents of officers speaking inappropriately to students. Conway ensured that this should never be the case.
"In my opinion, trust is the most important thing. What I'd do in this situation is start an investigation into each of these incidents, but I'd need specific information. If I have an officer who's doing something he or she shouldn't be, I want to be the first to hear about it. I have an open door policy," Conway said.
Another student questioned Campus Safety officers' consistency in terms of checking students for alcohol at programmed events. "It's really hard for us to maintain access control in these events. We're trying to come up with a strategy to make these fun and safe events for you guys. We don't want to cancel them. Right now we're working on a no re-entry policy so that people can't go out, drink and come back. We can't allow that," Conway said. He went on to specify that this is not only in response to Halloween weekend's Moorebid Ball, but to what is going on in the culture at large.
Conway informed students that in the past year and a half, Campus Safety has received calls for about 80 welfare checks, more than 250 escorts to medical facilities, more than 300 noise complaints and about 110 criminal incidents that have resulted in physical danger.
Another student raised the issue of students wanting to call Campus Safety for help with a party or a friend, but shying away for fear that they may receive disciplinary action of getting drawn into a situation that could get them in trouble.
"This is the first year we have a modified amnesty policy. This policy is meant to say to individuals that there will always be a conversation. Any fines or violations come from the conversations. It isn't automatic," Calhoun said. "Regardless of what someone's worried about, a person's health is always the most important thing," Conway said.
Calhoun also mentioned that a student's personal history will be taken into account, as well as the situation that caused the issue. Such issues are not likely to end up on a student's permanent record, she added, so long as the students involved act responsibly by seeking the necessary help.
The final topic of student concern regarded Campus Safety's environmental impact. Students asked if there is any possibility of switching their vehicles to ones that are more eco-friendly.
"We have talked about it, but we have lots of equipment in our vehicles, and we often have people to transport, so by definition we need a large car. But we're looking at hybrids and cars with the best gas mileage," Conway said. He also noted that the officers often ride bikes and horses, both of which are very earth friendly.
Conway ended the discussion by stating that any student wishing to make an anonymous complaint about Campus Safety is encouraged to call 518-580-TIPS.
In other news:
Senate approved a resolution to establish a budget for the Conflict Resolution Club on campus. The club was granted a budget of $5,410 in order to create a mediation training session in the spring semester.
Senate passed a resolution to write-off $1,149 from the Drastic Measures loan. The resolution was passed unanimously.
Additional reporting by Julia Leef