Task force to examine safety on campus

Work to begin with information gathering

Written by | May 23, 2013

Portland State President Wim Wiewel has assembled a task force that will examine approaches to the question of public safety on campus.

In an April 25 memorandum to the campus community, Wiewel outlined his vision for the task force’s work, which will be undertaken in the coming months.

The group, which held its first briefing on May 13, is charged with developing “a set of recommendations on how best to address safety concerns, and to improve the university’s response to criminal activity on campus,” Wiewel said.

One of the main concerns the task force is charged with addressing is the evolving role of public safety officers on campus.

“An issue has developed concerning whether or not PSU’s Campus Public Safety Office should become a fully sworn police department, to better deter and respond to campus crime,” Wiewel said.

The task force’s first order of business is to engage in widespread data-gathering and knowledge-building by way of conversation with students, faculty and community members.

“We wanted just to make sure that we’re getting all the input possible,” said Jackie Balzer, the vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs and chair of the task force.

Balzer said the group will gather community input through “a number of focus groups and interviews,” and is working on scheduling conversations with 30 different stakeholders in the campus community, including the City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau.

Mary Moller, the director of local and federal government relations at PSU, is optimistic about the coming conversations.

Save the date

Students wishing to voice their concerns about public safety on campus are encouraged to attend the Task Force for Public Safety’s first public meeting.

• Tuesday, May 28, at noon

• Smith Memorial Student Union, room 327

• The task force can by reached by emailing
fadmdesk@pdx.edu

“PSU and the City of Portland have had a good working relationship on all levels,” she said. “We want to be a part of that conversation.”

Valerie Holdahl, the undergraduate student representative for the task force, said that while the idea of arming public safety officers has been brought up often, the primary concern involves a big-picture approach to the community.

“It’s more about gauging what are the biggest [safety] concerns on campus,” she said. “I really want to hear from students and student employees more than anything.”

Domanic Thomas, the director of student conduct and another member of the task force, reiterated the group’s goal of gathering as much information regarding the community’s concerns as possible.

He believes cultivating an interdepartmental understanding is one of the most important things the group can accomplish.

“Finding out what those [misunderstandings] are would be great so we can fill in those gaps and figure out what message people aren’t getting,” Thomas said.

“That’s what I want,” he added. “We all want what’s best for the institution.”

The charge, as laid out by Wiewel, asks the task force to hold the bulk of its conversations before July 1. The information will be reviewed over the summer and presented for feedback to community stakeholders this fall.

The task force’s final recommendations are expected to be presented to Wiewel by Nov. 1.

The task force will hold its first meeting for public comment on Tuesday at noon in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 327, and anyone interested is welcome to attend. The second meeting is scheduled for June 5 at 4 p.m. in SMSU 333.

Anyone who wants to read Wiewel’s original memorandum or email individual members of the task force can visit pdx.edu/cpso/2013TFCS.

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