UNC system launches campus safety initiative

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 07:43 PM

A committee charged with studying whether the 17 campuses in the UNC system are using best practices when it comes to safety got its marching orders Tuesday from UNC President Tom Ross during a kick-off meeting at the Friday Center.

Composed of academic and student affairs professionals, campus police chiefs, campus attorneys and others from across the UNC system, the committee will focus on responding to offenses against persons, campus public safety and security reporting and awareness.

 “This university aspires to be a leader among higher education institutions in understanding and implementing the best methods and practices for responding to offenses against persons and ensuring that campus law enforcement operations function in accordance with well-designed policies and procedures,” Ross said.

Led by N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson and N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin, the 45 or more participants were separated into three working groups. Each group was asked to concentrate on one of the initiative’s three focus areas.

Ross has asked that they submit a single report in April that also includes recommendations and best practices to ensure campuses are safe.

He acknowledged that it will be impossible to insulate campuses from the violence that exists in society and at the same time preserve a commitment to access and openness.

 “Still, if the University of North Carolina is to effectively carry out our three-part mission of teaching, research and service, we must do everything feasible to promote a safe environment on our campuses and ensure that the rights of individuals are respected,” Ross said.

In addition, to looking at campus safety issues, the working groups will weigh the impact of alcohol and drugs on campuses and make recommendations for system-level policies and procedures they deem are needed.

“As we know from our experiences, alcohol and drugs change behavior, change attitudes and perspectives and in many ways contribute to some of the inappropriate and unfortunate behavior of our students on our respective campuses,” Martin said.

Abigail Boyer, assistant executive director of programs and outreach at the Clery Center for Security on Campus, said universities can use the annual security reports required under the Clery Act to their advantage by highlighting policies and programs they have in place to make their campus safe.

“I encourage institutions to use that opportunity, talk about what you are doing,” Boyer said.   

Ross announced the creation of the initiative in June at a time when UNC was in the national spotlight over its handling of sexual assaults.

Elizabeth City State University also found itself in the news this past summer after an investigation by local police found that campus police didn’t investigate 126 reported crimes, including several alleged sexual assaults.
The discovery led to the resignation of the police chief and the retirement of the university’s chancellor.