To: Students on the Redlands Campus
From: Ralph W. Kuncl
Date: October 3, 2014
Over the past several days, I have been contacted directly by some students, faculty, and alumni who have expressed their concerns about recent on- and off-campus safety as well as the University's current interim party policy while a final policy is negotiated. I am also aware of the conversations on these topics taking place on social media. I hear you, and I share your concern. I want to take this opportunity to address some misconceptions directly. We are a safe campus, and we want to keep it that way. However, like you, I am concerned about the proliferation of issues stemming from behavior of those not part of our University community.
It is challenging to balance safety and federal laws with student freedom. It is important for members of our community to keep in mind that while the University is normally safe with low crime rates, we are an open, residential campus within a larger urban community. We do not want to become a police state. We do not want to close ourselves off from the Redlands community and our neighbors. Rather, we seek to work together to find a balance that is reasonable, affordable, and sustainable.
I want to reinforce our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. The safety of our campus is a top priority, and we are constantly reviewing the measures we have in place to identify opportunities to make our campus safer. Students, faculty, and staff have every right to address their opinions and share concerns, and we are respectful of that. It speaks to the heart of the liberal educational values we teach. All of us must, in turn, respect that responsible authorities cannot share many private details of individual allegations and criminal cases, as we are bound by the law to protect the rights of those individuals involved.
Let's work together to preserve our sense of community on which we pride ourselves. This is the first step in what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue. Thank you for your individual efforts to foster a safe and secure community in which we can focus on educational excellence and community building.
President Ralph Kuncl
Q: How do Public Safety Officers patrol campus and at what frequency?
A: As a 24-hour, 7-day per week, year-round provider of service, the Department of Public Safety is committed to ensuring the safest environment possible. The team is comprised of the director, associate director, two sergeants, and 12 patrol officers. Collectively, there are more than 400 years of prior law enforcement experience among the Public Safety personnel. Public Safety management continually evaluates the nature of the calls for service as well as the times of day or night that incidents occur on or adjacent to the campus. Through that evaluation process, the number of officers deployed on a shift is continually adjusted to ensure that the most appropriate level of staff are on-duty during the peak periods when historical data have indicated a greater demand for services. The same process is used on a daily basis at the beginning of officers' work shifts. When officers begin their shift, they are informed of the type and location of any activity that has occurred on or adjacent to campus during the preceding days. Based on that information, the officers are directed to provide enhanced patrols of any areas that have exhibited a higher level of risk. If you are in need of assistance, you can reach Public Safety at 909-748-8888.
Q: Why can't Public Safety Officers carry guns?
A: The presence of lethal weapons on campus would be a significant departure from the culture and history at the University of Redlands, as well as the vast majority of other private universities of similar size. This is a question American society grapples with and is not unique to colleges. When lethal weapons are present, lethal consequences eventually occur. Two years ago, a graduate student at California State University at San Bernardino (CSUSB), where safety officers are armed, was killed. People have disparate opinions about guns on campus. While many large public universities are authorized by state legislatures to have armed officers, nearly all private university peers do not. Stakeholders on our campus have not engaged in serious discussions about the philosophy of whether or not to arm Public Safety Officers. One alternative to guns is training officers for "peace officer" status (having arrest powers and transparent access to police data). There are many critical factors that must be fully weighed through discussions when topics are of such significance to the University community. A decision that is not fully vetted on the matter of guns would serve as a critical disservice to our community. The president will ask ASUR leadership, the Faculty Senate, and the University of Redlands Staff and Administrators Assembly (URSAA) to hold teach-ins and open forums on this subject this year.
Q: What are you doing to make campus safer?
A: We have budgeted and planned for the installation of 38 new security surveillance cameras to be located at key areas in the first year of the multi-year security camera project. These sophisticated, high-resolution cameras represent an investment of $225,000. Last year, we updated the parking lot light fixtures between University Hall North and North Hall with larger light fixtures. We also worked with the City of Redlands to replace the burnt out light fixtures on Brockton Avenue and Grove Street. In addition, we trimmed back all of the trees that were impacting walkway lights on campus. This month, the Facilities team is scheduling the annual campus light survey and will be inviting members from the ASUR Cabinet to join them.
Q: Was the Redlands Police Department involved in the September 27 incident on Grove Street near Brockton Avenue (per the University announcement on 9/30/14)?
A: Yes, at the request of Public Safety, the Redlands Police Department (RPD) responded within minutes to the incident on September 27. The individuals involved in the incident had fled when the first-responding officers of Public Safety arrived, and the RPD officers could not identify the alleged perpetrators.
Q: Can students expect protection from Public Safety when off campus?
A: The authority of Public Safety Officers is provided through a memorandum of understanding with the Redlands Police Department. That authority is limited to University-owned or maintained property and does not extend to areas off-campus unless specifically requested by the Redlands Police Department.
Q: What type of relationship does the University's Public Safety team have with the Redlands Police Department (RPD)?
A: The University enjoys a long-standing strong and cooperative relationship with the City of Redlands as well as the Redlands Police and Fire Departments. Public Safety Officers and Dispatchers are in direct radio contact with the RPD at all times. Any time there is a need for a police response to the campus; Public Safety personnel have the same communications resources as any on-duty Redlands Police Officer. The Director and Associate Director of Public Safety maintain frequent contact with the Redlands Police Chief and command staff of that department. Any time a significant incident or area of concern arises on or near the campus, Public Safety advises the RPD and requests enhanced patrol of the area. The RPD has responded to all of these requests in an exemplary manner.
Q: What is happening with parties on campus?
A: A team of nine students (representing fraternities, sororities, siblinghoods, ASUR, Johnston, student athletes, and the Office of Residence Life), two administrators (Director of Student Conduct and Director of Greek Life), and one faculty member is working together to develop a comprehensive party policy. The goal is to develop an effective and successful policy that allows parties to happen on campus in a way that is safe for all participants.
Q: What is the status of the new policy?
A: Safety and self-regulation are two key principles within the design of the policy. The team is being quite mindful to what is reasonable, realistic, and sustainable. With that said, our goal is to be as expedient as possible, while still being thorough. The student-led team crafting the policy is planning on communicating more thoroughly to the entire campus community.
Q: What is currently allowed on campus?
A: Even in this interim period before the new policy takes effect, the University remains committed to helping students to facilitate safe social events on campus. Until the new policy takes effect, we will continue having all large parties (150 or more in attendance) with or without alcohol at central campus locations (including Orton Center, University Hall, Casa Loma Room, and the Quad). Smaller parties (members only +1, date nights, and functions with two organizations) can only be hosted at the organizational houses if the party is alcohol-free. Smaller parties with alcohol can be hosted at central campus locations.
Q: Why are these changes being made?
A: Non-students have frequently come to campus and caused safety problems at parties. Large parties, and those at organizational houses, are particularly vulnerable to people from off-campus finding them, gaining access despite reasonable barriers and security personnel, and then causing problems. The student body has grown, as has the Greek community. More importantly, the previous policy was not effective in ensuring responsible alcohol use and safe behavior. Over the past few years, there has been a worrisome increase in the number of transports to hospitals for life-threatening alcohol intoxication. There was also an increase in alcohol-related incidents at on-campus parties. The only way we can have parties on campus is if all participants are doing their part to minimize risk. We believe the best way to create an effective policy is through partnership between the University Administration, the Greek/Siblinghood community, and the student body as a whole.
Q: How will the current party policy impact Homecoming weekend?
A: Alumni Relations, Student Life, Greek organizations and Siblinghoods have come together to offer a number of events we hope will appeal to students, alumni, and parents alike over Homecoming Weekend. On Saturday, October 18, many Greek Houses will be hosting parties where alcohol may be served up until 9:30 p.m. After that time, we encourage everyone to join an all-University block party on Greek Lawn from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. with music, food, and a cash bar. It is not our intent to inhibit Homecoming fun, but after hiring additional security officers to cover an increased number of unsafe incidents over the past year, we find we still have had issues that test our available resources. To be frank, the University is not equipped to manage 12 separate Greek parties in 12 separate locations and assure the safety of campus. Providing a venue for all parties to come together in one space affords Public Safety the opportunity to address any outside concerns related to personal safety more efficiently, in particular uninvited outside party crashers who create threats.
Q: Why doesn't the University just hire more security guards for parties on Greek Row?
A: This is an educational institution. So, taking dollars for rented outside security could be someone's scholarship funds or more course sections or other valuable educational opportunities for all students. Diverting that instead to accommodate parties on campus for a few is not something we want to do. The average all school party costs the University approximately $2,200 for the contract security component of the event alone. This expense obviously has an exponential impact on the University's budget when the cost per party is multiplied by the total number of parties on campus. Ultimately, the party privileges we can allow on campus are dependent upon the extent to which students take the responsibility themselves to keep the parties safe. That involves not just non-students finding parties, but also ensuring responsible drinking and safe behavior among all party guests.
Q: Has there been an increase in safety incidents since parties were banned on Greek Row?
A: There are too many confounding factors to draw conclusions about a relationship between safety incidents and parties on Greek row over this short time span. The question seems to imply that parties should be on campus because, if students can't drink on campus, the University is being irresponsible and ‘forcing' students to go off campus, which is more dangerous. That is a position that abdicates any and all personal responsibility. From an educational perspective, and in the name of helping our shared culture develop to a healthier place where safe parties can happen on campus, we should recognize that is not a tenable position to take. That said, the statistics for 2014 Year-to-Date (YTD) compared to 2013 YTD show calls for service at the request of the Redlands Police Department to off-campus parties have decreased by 50%.
Q: How can I have my voice heard about the proposed policy?
A: The team of students, administrators, and faculty working to develop the new party policy will be communicating their progress and soliciting feedback from the larger community throughout the process. The first communication to the entire campus community will be going out on October 6, 2014. That communication will specify the best way for students, faculty, and staff to provide feedback or ask questions.
Q: Does the University Administration want to abolish the Greek System on campus?
A: We are not sure how this rumor got started, but we assure you that the Administration does not seek to abolish the Greek system on campus. We recognize the importance of the camaraderie experienced through an affiliation with a fraternity or a sorority. Our primary concern for Greeks, and all students, is balancing that camaraderie with reasonable safety.