Safety is a chief concern on college campuses. For those of us who work in urban environments, the microscope we are under comes from a unique set of challenges. One of those challenges is helping students and families understand that there is the city police force and the university police force. Both work together but are separate and have different responsibilities as it relates to on-campus and off-campus safety.
In response to growing concerns from various stakeholders, we held a town hall meeting which brought together the city police, city mayor, university police, university president, university senior administrators, parents, alumni, students, and community members. The focus of the meeting centered on sharing what the city and the university are doing and on hearing various stakeholders’ concerns.
This town hall led to the development of a committee inclusive of various stakeholders who have a commitment to identifying key objectives that the university could create to increase safety for the community. Also, we agreed to hold additional town hall meetings to provide insight into how we are moving forward and to share our progress on safety initiatives.
Here are some key items that we are doing to help make a difference:
- Summer orientation: Ongoing sessions and messaging
- Updates: Email connection with parents. Our staff work with our police to come up with ideas to better support our students and message both parents and students
- University police partnered with our wellness recreational area to provide self-defense courses
- Ongoing safety campaign in August
- Regular meetings to increase interaction between key police leaders and key student affairs leaders with student leaders
- The Office for Student Affairs communicates tips and information about safety
- University police are working to expand the area of the Clery Act alerts to include potential problematic areas around the city
- Meetings between university police, fraternity and sorority life office, and our Greek organizations leaders.
- Meetings between university police, key Office of Student Affairs leaders, and Minnesota Greek Alumni Council.
- University police participate in Parent and Family Weekend.
The other key thing the university is working on is how to increase and fill our police officer positions. We are working with the city to increase the city police force so they can do more patrols in surrounding communities, and we are also working on improving lighting and video cameras around identified problematic areas off-campus. Overall, safety is obviously an ongoing effort, one where we must remain engaged and create transparency and communication with everyone involved.
As we move forward with these key opportunities to improve the environment around campus, we will need to establish assessment tools to have a better understanding of which programs are making a difference. In addition, we need to help our university community understand that each of us plays a role in helping our environment to be safe for everyone. That means practicing safety measures and communicating when they see wrongdoing in our community.
Calvin Phillips serves as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is a member of the NASPA James E. Scott Academy Board.