In the wake of school shootings such as Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in which 17 people lost their lives, security at school campuses has been a major issue of concern. This brings questions about what emergency training Oglethorpe University officers have and the overall approach to ensuring safety on campus by the Campus Safety office.
For Oglethorpe University, campus safety is an office that the campus community is split in their love for it, or their frustration with it. Although some may see Campus Safety as too slow or annoyed with their parking policies, Campus Safety is what everyone at Oglethorpe relies on for ensuring no unwanted events take place or are in the least quickly controlled.
What constitutes a serious issue is “danger to a person or harm to a person,” said Dwayne Small, Director of Campus Safety, “Our focus is not on the property, our focus is on the person.” That means that even if an incident such as damage to your car in one of the parking lots or the loss of a wallet, even though those are serious to you they are not categorized as serious to campus safety.
A serious issue for campus safety can include issues such as threats to a person, a banned person on campus, and an active shooter. After such issues are handled, the Oglethorpe community will usually receive an email from either Smalls or Dean Hall giving information and context to the situation.
This exact scenario happened earlier in the spring semester when Smalls sent out a mass email to inform the Oglethorpe community “that a student posted a threatening picture on social media,” the email read.
Later that month another incident of an unwanted person on the residential quad happened. The person was removed by Brookhaven Police. However, for this incident no email to students was sent.
The growing fear for many is that of an active shooter on campus due to the growing number of attacks at schools and universities. Since the beginning of 2018 there have been 18 school shootings, and just because Oglethorpe is located in Brookhaven, an area with low crime, does not guarantee freedom of such type of threat. The protocol to deal with such threat for Oglethorpe’s Campus Safety is to immediately call Brookhaven Police, said Smalls.
“Just because of the way campus is open all day, I think that someone who isn't a student could come in and we wouldn't be protected,” said Oglethorpe student Kalana Archer. She says she does not know all the duties officers have but, anytime she or her friends had to call Campus Safety for either bring picked up at the MARTA station or even being let into their room “Campus Safety is really slow.”
The Issues Within Campus Safety
Although Oglethorpe’s campus is fenced it is open from 5:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. for anyone to walk into campus. This is why sometimes as students make their way to class you can spot local Brookhaven residents walking their dogs or taking a walk around campus. This, however, leaves campus vulnerable to anyone coming to campus. The biggest issue is that Campus Safety cannot know during the day who is inside of campus.
In order to increase knowledge of who is present on campus cameras need to be implemented. Currently, there are only two working cameras on campus, both pointing at cash registers said, Smalls. Therefore, if any suspicious person or threatening person enters campus at any point there will be no footage of them and makes it very difficult for Campus Safety to track their movements.
As for personnel Campus Safety “are trained reporting, they are trained on chain and command, they are trained on each building and each buildings sensitive areas,” said Smalls, and also on campus layout, on the protocol of who to call in a certain situation. This training takes approximately two weeks.
This training is extremely important because almost all of Campus Safety is based on personnel. There is almost no technology integrated, like the automatic locking of doors at specific times, that many other schools of Oglethorpe’s size have, according to Smalls.
The lack of any technology to help officers keep track of call-ins, duties, and the time it takes for them to manually lock every door and send in reports to Campus Safety work-study students to enter into a database, makes the work slow and tedious. Aside from that, only two Campus Safety officers are on duty at any given point, thus when multiple calls come in it takes them lots of time to finish up their own duties, such as checking parking, and also attend to those who call.
For example, when a student calls in to be picked up from the MARTA station it takes about 30 minutes for an officer to go pick them up and arrive back on campus due to the Atlanta traffic. This is the time that they could be attending calls or completing duties, said Smalls.
These issues put a strain on the Oglethorpe community when they need campus safety to attend to them quickly.
A Possible Fix
“It was the thinking of the past,” said Smalls, “many times the thought was this is Brookhaven, Georgia.” Funding and investing for Campus Safety in the past has been seen as not needed due to the low crime rates in Brookhaven. Over the years Oglethorpe’s Campus Safety has fallen behind on prevention systems by maintaining almost everything to be done manually by a small personnel.
To address this, Smalls has been compiling data that helps him advocate for more funding for Campus Safety that would be utilized for preventative measures. “It’s better that you know how to prevent fires than you’re better at fighting fires,” was Smalls analogy to investing in more technology to be integrated into Campus Safety to increase efficiency and security.
He proposes more cameras and an app that the Oglethorpe community could use to request the help of Campus Safety. This app would allow for those at Oglethorpe to request the help of Campus Safety and track an accurate response rate. The answer if Campus Safety will be allocated funding for more preventive security measures and this app could be coming before the semester end.
We will keep you updated.