The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Exploring the relationship between Public Safety and students

The line that people draw between safety and freedom is blurry, especially for students on a college campus. Living away from home for the first time and experiencing new freedom makes judging what is and isn’t safe difficult in some situations and circumstances. Knowing who to contact when faced with danger may not register instantly, at which point it becomes necessary to have an organized unit on campus who can both enforce and protect.

Enter Guilford College’s Department of Public Safety. These men and women are here to ensure the safety of everyone on campus.

But with 13 Public Safety officers on staff — only two or three of whom are on duty at a any given time — it becomes difficult to patrol the more than 300 acres of campus. Often, the safety of the students rests with individual students acting responsibly and notifying Public Safety when a student needs assistance. Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow is most concerned about the open boundary of campus.

“What really scares me are individuals we don’t know who are on campus, folks who are not part of our community,” Fetrow said. “If you’re out there, be together and report things.”

Ensuring that a cooperative relationship exists between the students and Public Safety poses something of a problem. Not only does it need to be clear that students should contact Public Safety when they need to, but students must also understand that Public Safety officers have a duty to enforce school policies.

“I think that the majority of Public Safety’s work is based on protection, and any incriminating feelings that students are having are the direct result of administrative policies,” said sophomore Markus MacNamara.

Many students may agree with MacNamara on this point, and yet Public Safety is still often cast in a negative light because part of their duty includes documenting students for violating college policies.

“Public Safety does a good job of being present on campus, but at the same time they can come off as judgmental and thus carry stereotypes with them, as we all tend to do,” said junior Neisha Washington, resident advisor in the North Apartments. “Public Safety should reach out to the students more. They should seek to have a stronger relationship with residents.”

Forging a strong relationship requires a communication between students and Public Safety officers, which does not currently exist. Director of Public Safety Ron Stowe emphasized the importance of communication in creating a relationship between the Public Safety officers and students.

“Safety on campus is a community issue, and we’re all responsible for that,” said Stowe.

Part of keeping Guilford’s campus safe involves the student body participating actively by making sure that they practice safe behavior. There is no “Big Brother” entity keeping a watch on the community, and the responsibility of keeping the campus safe lies on the shoulders of a relationship between Public Safety and the faculty, the staff, and the students of Guilford.

The intimidation factor by Public Safety officers is not surprising, and for new students the seemingly ever-present red golf carts might induce fear. Sophomore and Binford RA Faris El-Ali discussed his perspective of Public Safety officers on campus.

“I feel like people need to recognize that they’re here to help you, not to prosecute you,” El-Ali said.

Students must be willing to cooperate with Public Safety officers in order to keep campus safe. As a recent graduate and current employee at Guilford, Binford Hall Director Justin Shreve ‘10 has worked closely behind the scenes with students and campus safety.

“When I was a student here, I always felt protected, and now moving into the Hall Director role I see the regulations and I see that people do really care about safety,” Shreve said. “We need a cooperative relationship between students and staff.”

Shreve is not alone in believing that, in order for the system in place to be effective, interaction between the two entities must be present, but communication will not solve all of the safety issues at Guilford. Students need to be aware of themselves, their friends, and their actions.

“My perspective on this is simple, and that is I would love to guarantee that I could protect everyone,” Fetrow said. “The best thing we can do is be cautious.”

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