Public Safety (PSafe) recently announced the reinstatement the Safety Advisory Committee, a group of students, faculty, administrators, and PSafe officers who will meet to advise PSafe. The committee has not been operational for the last two years.
According to Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley, both of whom are working to develop the committee, goals include making PSafe’s work more transparent on campus, providing ideas for programs, and allowing PSafe to develop closer relationships with students.
Whaley served on the original Safety Advisory Committee for several years when he was the University’s Dean of Students. In the past, the committee was composed of two or three students, the PSafe director, and the Dean of Students. When Whaley served on the Safety Advisory Committee, the main issues discussed included the University’s policy on camera surveillance of public areas of campus, ways to build connections between PSafe officers and students, and areas which needed more or less nighttime patrolling.
Whaley acknowledged that when he served on the committee, it was in need of reform.
“When Dave Meyer was the head of PSafe, the committee had waned greatly in terms of membership, meetings, and the breadth of issues discussed,” Whaley said. “One of the recommendations that was made when a new director [Rohde] came in was to reform it and make it more robust in terms of talking about the ways in which the department should move forward.”
The new committee’s goals and reforms are based around the external review of PSafe that was conducted two years ago by Margolis Healy & Associates. The review provided a list of recommendations for the committee that Whaley hopes will be prioritized moving forward.
“We recommend the reconstitution of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) to build and foster positive relationships with key campus stakeholders including but not limited to: student affairs, judicial affairs, residential life/housing, legal counsel, risk management, student government, and athletics,” the report read.
Whaley envisions that the new committee will have more diverse membership than the one that he served on as Dean of Students.
“In the new committee, we want to have WSA members and members of certain student groups, such as student of color organizations or international students, in order to recognize that the WSA might not be inclusive of student viewpoints,” Whaley said. “Having others on the committee who are not WSA members could be helpful.”
Head of the WSA’s Student Affairs Committee Bruno Machiavelo-Tinoco ’16 has worked closely with Rohde to develop the new Safety Advisory Committee. Machiavelo-Tinoco hopes that the new committee will allow students to voice their concerns directly to Rohde and to increase the transparency of Public Safety’s policies and actions on campus.
Machiavelo-Tinoco feels that the beginning of Rohde’s tenure at the University is an opportune time to revive the committee.
“Since we got a new PSafe director, it would help him to get acclimated to Wesleyan, to make sure that he knows what student concerns are and what his function is,” he said. “The old committee addressed mainly crisis responses, and I hope that it continues to serve these type of functions. However, it wouldn’t address the underlying relationships between students and PSafe on the day-to-day, which I think is one of the big issues that causes conflict and confusion to happen.”
According to Machiavelo-Tinoco, day-to-day responsibilities of PSafe include tracking of suspicious individuals on campus and adequately dispersing their resources, including patrol cars and officers. Both Machiavelo-Tinoco and Rohde hope that the committee will meet at least three times each semester and have the flexibility to hold additional meetings if a pertinent issue arises.
For Rohde, it is necessary that the committee retain the same core 7 to 10 members and meet regularly in order to be most effective.
“I think there is value in keeping a tight advisory group just to PSafe because there are enough issues that we could address that would keep us busy,” Rohde said. “If we feel that we’re having very few issues, it’s still helpful because you can never overemphasize personal safety and crime prevention. New classes come in with different generational values, different ideas, and different technology. I think there is a good sense that this group should be prominent in order to foster close relationships with all stakeholders in this university.”
Rohde also hopes to work closely with the residential setting of the University by offering professional and student Residential Life members positions on the committee. He hopes to gain other perspectives on the committee as well, including counseling, Greek life, Title IX committee members, and Student Affairs administrators. He asserted that the committee should be able to discuss concerns on both the campus and neighborhood communities, and he hopes to invite some members of the greater Middletown community to speak at the meetings or to serve on the committee.
“Although we will primarily be focused on what is going on on campus, we know that there are conflicts going on in our neighborhoods joining our [University and Middletown] communities,” Rohde said. “It is important that people on the committee hear from those affected. We are thus hoping to get representatives from the city and from their agencies that directly affect student life, such as the Middletown Police and Fire Department.”
Rohde also wishes to hold a student forum about PSafe before the semester ends.
“We should do something like host a forum each semester, just to have a dialogue with the student body,” he said. “I think that sometimes people feel a little challenged to bring up an issue alone, one on one, and to an administrator. It might be good to have more than one person there and have people who can share these issues in a safe space. This would be a separate outcome of, but will most certainly be discussed by, the committee.”