Campus Safety Update
April 26, 2012
My purpose in writing to you today is to describe actions underway that will enhance campus safety, and more broadly, strengthen the campus life experience for all. I have participated in a number of beneficial conversations about safety on the campus and in the neighborhood over the past few weeks. The information gathered from these sessions has been very helpful in determining where the University might effectively invest resources and also where changes in policies and procedures related to safety issues are warranted to enhance safety. The safety of students and the whole campus community is paramount among the priorities of the University. Safety is enhanced when there is clarity on everyone's part as to the extensive safety resources that are available on campus, as well as the policies and procedures that are in place. Beyond the efforts I discuss below, further initiatives are under consideration, but I did not want to wait on all of these decisions before sharing this update with you.
It is clear to me that there is a need for enhanced communication within the Clark community on issues of safety. Good communication enables us to improve campus services; share the reasons behind decisions, policies, and procedures; and provide information on new developments or incidents. To strengthen communication, we are taking the following steps. A campus forum will be held every year, co-hosted by the Student Councils and University Police, to discuss policies and procedures regarding campus safety. Additional forums will be held during the year as needed. We will also create a Campus Safety Advisory committee representing all of the campus community to provide an ongoing platform to discuss safety issues that arise. The committee will include faculty, staff, students, and community members.
Safety Warnings and Alerts
The policies and procedures governing safety warnings and alerts have been a source of confusion and difficulty on our campus. Effective immediately, we are adopting a new four-element approach to safety warnings and alerts. The details regarding this new approach are laid out in the attached memo which I encourage you to read carefully.
Safety Escort Service
Many of the conversations I have held over the past few weeks have included a discussion regarding expectations for this service. Escort Services are currently carrying a tremendous volume with total ridership over the academic year exceeding 60,000 rides. The original intent was to provide safe escorts to and from off-campus locations within a set radius of the campus. Over the years, the demand for trips to commercial locations has grown to where it is nearly 50% of the ridership. We believe that it is a reasonable expectation that students are picked up within 15 minutes of a call being placed to Escort, especially for non-commercial trips. I also understand the importance of good information flow, such as a rider knowing if a pick-up has been delayed for some reason so as to be able to plan accordingly. We are reviewing a variety of approaches to meet these service expectations, ranging from adding capacity at peak times to the use of technology to keep riders better informed regarding their calls, and we are reviewing how best to meet requests for transportation beyond the service area. Regular updates will be provided on Escort Service as we implement new developments.
University Police are central to our campus safety strategy. I am most grateful to the staff and officers of University Police for their service to the Clark community. Working with Chief Goulet and Vice President Foley, I am assessing on a continuing basis staff resources and associated policies and procedures. I have received considerable input from the campus community on many issues ranging from how police officers are deployed (for instance, on foot versus in vehicles, on campus versus in the immediate neighborhood) to how calls are handled and prioritized by campus police. I have authorized new investments in staffing to improve support for safety. The University Police force will be increased with a new officer to work the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift and bring greater coverage to the campus and the community. Additional ways to enhance the capacity of University Police to serve the campus community will be announced as they are implemented.
Lighting and Technology
Lighting and use of technology are central to our campus safety strategy. Along with additional campus-based lighting, we are also working with the city of Worcester to add new spotlights to the public light poles in the neighborhood like those already installed along Charlotte, Florence, and Beaver Streets. These new neighborhood lights will be targeted for areas where students may be living or walking frequently. The University is also adding another 10 exterior cameras across the campus perimeter to the existing 42 cameras already in place. These cameras have provided important information in the investigation of criminal activities or suspicious behavior over the past three years, leading to the identification of more than 65% of suspects during this time.
There are a variety of other relevant policies and practices that relate to campus safety and the broader campus life experience. We recognize the need to bring the campus together when there is an incident that impacts our entire community. In the event of any report of a sexual assault, I have charged the office of the Dean of Students to work with the Clark Anti-Violence Education program to conduct forums to talk about these incidents and their impact at Clark. Residence Life and Housing will be implementing a new response policy for any calls or concerns with alcohol or drug use in the residence halls. We are strengthening the role of professional residence life staff in responding to incidents, as well as ensuring that University Police are able to respond swiftly when needed.
I want to remind students who choose to live off campus that they are subject to the laws of the city of Worcester. University Police work very closely with Worcester Police to provide for your safety off campus while also preserving the peace for our neighbors. Clark students generally have a positive reputation for respecting the rights of our neighbors, but a reminder is always beneficial. If you choose to host an event at your off-campus residence, please be aware of issues such as disturbing the peace and uninvited guests. Our neighbors in the community are also a key part of efforts to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for all. We will continue conversations with our neighbors and the city, for example on lighting and on reporting suspicious activity, so as to maximize our shared efforts toward safety.
I will be regularly updating the Clark community on any new information regarding campus safety. As I mentioned at the outset of this memo, safety for the whole Clark community remains a top priority for all of us at the University. I welcome your further feedback and input on safety concerns.
I wish you the best of luck with your final exams and your end of the semester work!