Security to launch dorm liaison program for first-years

Last week, Security met with the junior advisors (JAs) to ask for feedback on a new initiative that would promote better student-officer relations. The new program would encourage security officers to interact with students, specifically first-years, outside their roles of authority.

The program would pair each officer with a first-year entry, which the officer would visit at least twice a week while they were on duty. The nature of the interaction the officer would have with the entry would be decided entirely by the entry and could be both formal and informal.

JAs could invite their assigned officer to entry activities or could even plan special events with their officer. The more frequent interaction, however, would be casual conversation similar to student interaction with officers that presently walk through the dorms.

Officer Chuck Roberts, organizer of this project, said that his hope for the program was to “establish a foundation where we, the officers, get to know the students and the students get to know us.” He stressed the importance of developing relationships between security and students on a personal level.

He explained that by building these relations, students would feel more comfortable accessing security as a non-academic resource on campus that could assist students with a wide range of services. According to Roberts, Security hopes that through this program students at least will feel at ease approaching one security guard with any questions that they may have.

“The idea to reach out to first-year students is nothing new,” Roberts said. In fact, the security officers have considered initiating a program like this for some time. They have seen similar programs work at other schools, but it was not until this year that the officers approached Dave Boyer, assistant director of Security, and Jean Thorndike, director of Security, about the possibility of bringing a program like this to campus.

Roberts pointed to the first week of this school year as the impetus for the officers’ decision. “A lot more happened a lot quicker,” he said Officers witnessed several severe situations early on in the year.

In the cases involving alcohol, students, in particular first-year students, had to be escorted to the Health Center and even the hospital. Roberts said that he had been approached by many students who commented that “this year is going to be a rough year because things are already out of control.”

Boyer disagreed with this assessment of the start of the year. He said, “it is not my sense at all that this year was worse than any previous year. We had our issues as we always do.” He explained that this year may have appeared out of control because of the high profile nature of some of the issues with which Security dealt.

Both Boyer and Roberts agree, however, that building positive relationships between students and Security would only help the department promote safety on campus. Boyer said, “We just want to make as many connections as possible between officers and students.”

A few years ago security implemented a walk-through program where officers rotated passing through the dorms while on duty, but the program was eventually dropped. About this program Boyer said, “We didn’t always have the right atmosphere or get the right results.” This new program, unlike the old arrangement, would place more emphasis on students being familiar with at least one officer.

Due to Security’s limited number of officers, this dorm liaison program would focus solely on developing relationships with first-year students. Security believes that first-year entries could benefit the most from this type of program. Roberts said, “The first year is a critical, critical time period. For the first time, students are away from home and junior advisors for the first time have to worry about 20 to 40 kids.” The relationships that Security then establishes with first-year students would last the next three years.

After the meeting with the JAs, Roberts said, “I thought from the student responses, from the facial expressions, and from the positive follow-up emails that the majority of the JAs felt comfortable with the idea and were supportive.”

Roberts said that some JAs did express concern over the increased presence of Security in their entry and whether or not that would lead to increased disciplinary action. Roberts pointed out that although students worried about disciplinary repercussions “not one thing came up about disciplinary action” during the initial meetings the security officers had about the program. He also said that program is entirely voluntary and “for those that want to participate.”

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