BY VERONICA SANSUR
Last week, 12 students started training for the Campus Safety Assistant Program, where, in certain halls, students will take the place of Campus Safety officers.
Natalee Chadwick, a freshman criminology major, is one of the 12 students selected for the program. She said that during the training the students learned multiple things like how to work with the radio and how to react in case of different emergencies. Dealing with students having a breathing or hyperventilation problem and individuals going inside dorms without showing any documentation are two of the scenarios they learn how to deal with in training.
“I went last night to Morsani to do the training, which is probably the busiest hall,” Chadwick said. “So, I had to sit at the front desk and ask students for their IDs and watch out for any inconvenience.”
Samuel Ponce, assistant director of Campus Safety and retired New York Police Department cop, said that the hours students will work are from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. because, according to him, those are the busiest of student traffic.
Although students in the program will be active seven days a week, and in different dorms on campus, not all residence halls will have students to check ID’s overnight.
“We do however still cover three of the dorms with our officers: the Barrymore, Straz and Vaughn because they are really busy dorms and we need the officers there,” Ponce said. “In the other dorms, we will only have the students there.”
Ponce said that they provided the students with 12 hours of a training program and opportunities to shadow officers.
“We also go over some scenario-based training of what exactly they may encounter where they are in the dorms themselves,” Ponce said. “Also, they go to shadow the Campus Safety officers before going on their own, which is what they are doing this week.”
Adam Barrett-Clarke, a senior physiology major, agrees that, although he is not in the program, this is a good idea for both students and Campus Safety officers. He said that as long as they have all the resources to call Campus Safety if an emergency happens, it is a good resource.
“It kind of alleviates some of the stress for Campus Safety, so they can work on more important matters, like out of the dorms someone may have an issue,” Barret-Clarke said. “A lot of the times you press the blue button [emergency light] and they do not come because they are doing something else. So, I think it is a great idea for that reason.”
On the other hand, Litteasah Johnson, senior psychology major, who also works as a desk assistant, said that this new program could cause problems in emergencies, as students have less experience than officers. Also, she would feel safer with Campus Safety officers at dorm entrances rather than students.
“I think it will be also a risk of having students doing that profession too because I work in Urso and the people that usually want to come in are usually on drugs or things like that,” Johnson said. “Just the other night it was a guy that was trying to come in and four campus Safety did not let us leave the gate area. So, if a student has to deal with that they will be in a really bad position.”
Students will not be armed, Ponce said.
“They are not campus safety officers; they are just the eyes and the ears,” Ponce said. “They are not to engage in anything that puts them in any danger. In other words, if something comes to the dorm that is of nature that they have to engage with somebody they will just go to the radio, their best tool is the radio.”
They talked about doing this new program since the beginning of the academic year, according to Ponce. But, it took a lot of planning and enquiring different places where they have the program already.
“It is a new program here at UT but it is a program that has been for a long time in other universities,” Ponce said. “Like, The University of South Florida and Syracuse University, and one of the officers that used to work in Syracuse actually was one of the ones that suggested that we should start the program here.”
According to Audrey Clarke, Public Information Representative from USF (University of South Florida), the most similar program they have is their SAFE Team.
SAFE Team is dedicated to providing a heightened level of safety at the University of South Florida, according to USF’s Student Government website. Also,they provide this service by constantly patrolling sectors of campus in order to determine crime, offering safe escorts to USF students, and working in conjunction with local figures to provide the Alert Cab service to USF students.
Chadwick said that this is a good opportunity for students to be involved with UT campus and the experience will help students with majors related to safety and security.
“I guess I want to have the experience on how to be in law enforcement and also in the security field,” Chadwick said. “I think it will be a good program, it will be easier to control the campus.”
Ponce said that the program itself should essentially do three things. The program provides job opportunities for students, allows campus safety to build trust and relationship between the students and allows for them to accomplish their vision.
“Our vision is to employ initiative technologies, which we are doing by having all of these different tools coming up,” Ponce said. “We also have leadership and initiatives, that we are implementing by training [students] as future leaders.”
To be a Campus Safety Assistant students do not have to be in a specific major. This still is a pilot program and if everything goes as expected, Campus Safety will open more positions for Fall 2018.
Veronica Sansur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.