Students’ petition prompts SU administration to hold forum

BY SEAN COLVIN – STAFF WRITER

The Office of Student life and Public Safety held a forum on April 27 to address students’ concerns about the behavior of Public Safety officers and other issues.

The forum was held in response to an online petition started by a concerned student via Change.org, which reached 664 supporters.
Vice President of Student Engagement and Success Lisa Scott took dozens of questions from students with the help of David Gardner, head of Public Safety, Dean of Students Christie Kracker and Dean of Academic Engagement James Black.

Also present to answer questions were representatives from the office of facilities management, the health and counseling centers and others.

The primary subject of concern for students was the conduct of Public Safety officers, who, some students claimed, have been over-stepping their bounds in recent months. Examples from students included the barricading of students inside a crowded party so that disciplinary action could be taken, the “stalking” of certain apartments by officers on weekends and altercations in which officers physically handled students.

Another concern of students was the sluggishness of the conduct hearing process and the manner in which those processes are carried out, which some claim are unfair.

For one student, junior Jean DeBiasse, a delay in the processing of her censure appeal rendered her ineligible for housing in 18th Street next year, a goal for many rising seniors.

“We can’t live off campus, so this is the closest thing,” DeBiasse said. “[Administration] admitted their mistake. They said that they would right their mistake, but how could they possibly right this?”

Some students asked that the administration take a look at similar universities’ policies on drinking, which, the students claimed, are more relaxed and safety-oriented than discipline-oriented.

Another concern raised was the lack of warning before fire drills. According to Scott, a new policy, effective immediately, outlines that students will receive warnings 48 hours prior to fire drills in their residence halls.

Scott was quick to try to reassure students, and she invited many to meet with her for further discussion on the issues they presented, in order to incorporate those needs into policies.

“There’s no mal-intent or subterfuge,” she said. “You were right about a lot of things, and we’re taking the hit.”

Scott also announced that a “student-driven task force” will be assembled before next semester to help incorporate students’ concerns and to be a general liaison between students and administration.

Sophomore Sabrina Bush, a journalism major, started the Change.org petition. The petition claimed that the student body is displeased with the administration’s lack of acknowledgement of Public Safety officers’ “abuse of power.” 1 News.pdf - Adobe Acrobat ProTHE CRUSADER / HOPE SWEEDEN

David Gardner, head of Public Safety, said that he was not aware of some of the accusations prior to the petition.

“A lot of that stuff we heard from that petition, we’re not hearing about,” Gardner said. “If something happens, we need to know about it.”

Gardner said that if these types of things occur in the future, students should report them when they occur. He also said that the accusations against his officers will be investigated.

“We have a process for employees who are accused of misconduct, and that process will be followed,” he said.

Following the forum, sophomore broadcasting major Cayla Spatz said, “It will bring a lot of peace of mind to students to know that Lisa Scott is trying to make a change and really connect with the students and getting our point of view.”

“We’ve got to balance things between allowing students to have fun and keeping people safe,” said Gardner. “Right now we go from zero to screaming, and that’s not a good environment for anybody.”