In an email to the college community on Jan. 28, Mike Hill, director of public safety updated the campus community about several positions that Public Safety is looking to fill. These include the senior positions of Associate Director for Operations and Associate Director for Community Engagement and Professional Standards. Various community members view these hirings as an opportunity for Public Safety to increase their engagement with students and improve relationships.
In an email to The Phoenix, Mike Hill explained the responsibilities of both positions.
“The Associate Director for Operations … assists the Director in establishing and maintaining a safe and secure campus environment … The AD [for Operations], as a member of the Department’s leadership team, is charged with supervising staff, monitoring, and implementing department training, coordinating security-related campus assets and events, and managing department-related security technology. In addition, the AD assists the director with all safety and security operations including emergency management, oversight of the campus security patrol, communications center, incident investigation, crime prevention, training, parking enforcement, shuttle service, and supports community engagement initiatives.
The AD [for Community Engagement and Professional Standards] serves as acting director in the absence of the Director and/or Associate Director for Operations. On a day-to-day basis, the AD [for Community Engagement and Professional Standards] is responsible for the Department of Public Safety’s community outreach programs, student employment initiatives, and professional standards, and will be the point person for the Department’s [International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators] accreditation” wrote Hill.
Public Safety is hoping to receive input from the campus community; previous attempts to collect input have been scrutinized for not giving students adequate time to participate.
The initial pool of applicants for the Associate Director of Operations is currently being narrowed down.
“The committee for the AD for Operations is currently reviewing applications. We hope to invite finalists to campus in the coming weeks to meet with the community, including students. Feedback from those visits can be shared with any member of the committee: Paul Rablen, Chemistry; Casey Anderson, Health and Wellness; Bill Dunbar, Environmental Services; Susan Smythe, Facilities; Tobin Adams, Athletics; Lakiyah Chambers, Human Resources; Kevin Liao ’21, Student Government Organization; and [Mike Hill], as chair. The committee for the AD for Community Engagement, which I will also chair, is being formed now and will meet for the first time in March. That group will follow a similar process, including campus visits with finalists,” Hill wrote.
The college contracted the executive search firm, Spelman Johnson, to compile an initial list of applicants based on input from the campus community.
“Two representatives from [Spelman Johnson] came to campus last fall to hear directly from students, faculty, and staff about the needs of our community. The insight they obtained continues to inform their work on the College’s behalf, including recruiting and screening candidates,” wrote Hill.
Kevin Liao ’21, SGO Executive board member and Chair of the Campus Climate Committee, attended the meeting with the representatives and shared input on behalf of SGO and the student body at large.
“A lot of what I wanted them to consider was diversity. More people of color or LGBTQ+ public safety members. People with less of a military or police background, which I understand is kind of necessary for the job sometimes, but more of like a friendly person. Also talking about backgrounds in diversity training like gender, pronoun training, things that I had been hearing about from students,” said Liao.
Liao believes that the Associate Director of Community Engagement and Professional Standard can have a significant impact on improving Public Safety’s relationship with students.
“The Associate Director of Community Engagement is going to be the person that looks at the student concerns and try to reach out to students. They might hold regular community events or maintain some sort of a media presence and provide ways where students can talk to public safety instead of just having your interactions being in a time of crisis,” Liao said.
Liao also mentioned potential approaches for individual Public Safety officers to build community with students.
“Public Safety is trying to put together a project where there would be localized public safety officers dedicated to a hall or two halls. That fosters a better sense of community, connection, and communication with students,” said Liao.
Tyler White ’22, an SGO senator and member of Swarthmore African American Student Society, is also hopeful that the Associate Director for Community Engagement and Professional Standards will improve relationships between Public Safety and students [White is an op-ed contributor for The Phoenix but was not involved in the production of this piece].
“I think the very name of it, the Associate Director for Community Engagement and Professional Standards, makes it sound like it has a lot of potential. But I hope that there’s a lot of intentionality in working with some of the diversity inclusion staff within the campus, very direct communication about what it means for public safety to engage with the community. Also what community are you engaging with? What communities are you really trying to prioritize and center on? Then also professional standards, how are you going to hold your own institution accountable?” said White.
White also emphasized the importance of acknowledging previous events in order to assure the success of the Associate Director for Community Engagement and Professional Standards.
“I think that post all the stuff that happened in the Spring, that has led to needing time to heal, that it’s very important to be honest about what it is that is happening and why it is occurring … So the institution can hold some kind of integrity with the community and be like, we understand that we may have failed in some areas, but we’re still trying to do better and kind of reconcile that relationship,” White said.
Both Associate Director positions will play a major role in the day to day operations of Public Safety as well as the direction the department will take going forward.
Photo courtesy of Princeton Huang for The Phoenix