Last April, an external review company called Margolis Healy analyzed Whittier College’s Department of Campus Safety over a three day holistic review that involved interviews with many departments and students on campus to determine improvements for the office. Margolis Healy reported back data in August and changes for the Campus Safety Office occured this summer and will continue into fall.
This external review was brought to campus because of events that occurred in February 2016 when there was a lockdown on campus due to a suspicious individual. Students were alerted via Campus Safety’s emergency alert system. This process gave students information via text and email and proved to be an alert system that hadn’t been used in some time.
Students reported feeling unsafe on campus to the ASWC Senate during a town hall meeting. External reviewers were brought to campus to discuss potential improvements to the Department of Campus Safety. Campus Safety eagerly agreed that they needed help forming the best practices and wanted to continue to make changes to the department under Director Jose Padilla.
The information from the external reviewers brought the department’s attention to several areas of improvement: the amount of trainings accessible to officers, the amount of drills and tests conducted on campus, the clarity of the office’s role on campus and the extent of technology used in daily life and emergency situations.
Margolis Healy looked at Campus Safety’s procedures, staffing and operation strategies during their evaluation. One large piece of their feedback was that Campus Safety didn’t have a clear purpose on the Whittier College campus.
“There were some key findings,” Director of Communications Ana Lilia Barraza said. “One of the major recommendations really involved making sure that the Whittier College community understood the role and mission of the Department of Campus Safety because one of the things that they found is that as departments grow, they take on responsibilities that may not fall under what their mission is.”
For example, Campus Safety was formally responsible to let students into residential hall rooms when they got locked out. That responsibility has been moved to Resident Advisors (RAs) and Area Directors (ADs). By making this change, Campus Safety is now free to patrol and engage with community members without needing to stop for lock out calls.*
Another suggestion shows that they need to have more face-to-face time with those whom they are serving. “They should continue to build ties with the community,” Barraza said. “Part of that is doing foot patrols so they interact more with students and the campus community in general.” This call-to-action also proposes that the department meet more often with affinity groups and the ASWC Senate to interact directly with students.
Margolis Healy also advised that officers and students have more trainings, such as the ALICE active shooter training or other trainings, offered by groups with the Whittier Police Department. Students and staff can also expect more routine drills on campus to better educate community members of what they should do in an emergency situation.
An increase in technology updates was also recommended. “We’re converting many of the locking systems on campus to card swipes, which makes them easier to change if a key card is lost, and it also makes things easier to lock down,” Barraza said. “There will be progressively more and more of those [changes] on campus.”
Updates to Campus Safety’s website were made this summer to make crime logs more accessible. More changes will continue to be implemented to technology used by campus safety.
The external review brought many suggestions for the department to move forward with, and the Whittier College community can expect a more educated staff and more daily communication with Campus Safety over the upcoming year.
*FOLLOW-UP: RAs will handle lockouts during their normal hours: 8 p.m. - midnight, Sunday – Thursday and 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday.