CHAPEL HILL – The UNC System’s review of its security policies is underway this month. It’s a detailed evaluation of safety measures across the 17-campuses, including here in Chapel Hill.
NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold Martin are leading the UNC Campus Security Initiative.
Martin explains that the initiative which began on Oct. 1 was commissioned by UNC System President Tom Ross this past summer.
A report will be presented to Ross next spring based on the review’s findings.
“This process for us is to do an audit and an assessment of where we are and look for ways to enhance and strengthen our oversight of campus security,” Martin says.
Ross has focused on concerns which have surfaced system-wide regarding sexual assault and other violent crimes, campus security, and policies about the reporting of these crimes.
This review comes at a time when the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating UNC-Chapel Hill’s handling and reporting of sexual assaults.
In response to the federal investigation, then UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp brought in Gina Smith, a former prosecutor, in January of this year. She worked with members of the campus community to discuss how the University handles cases of sexual misconduct. A sexual assault policy task force was also created and charged with reviewing and enhancing the University’s policies and procedures on the issue. Their work is nearing completion.
“Any of the core recommendations that come out of Chapel Hill’s assessment will indeed make their way into our work, quite honestly and very appropriately so,” Martin says. “And if appropriate for system-wide discussions, it will be absolutely included.”
Over the next several months, Woodson explains that the Campus Security Initiative will bring together administrators, law enforcement personnel, faculty, and students from across the system to explore issues of campus safety.
“It’s a diverse group of individuals representing everything from our security officers to academic officers to people who work in student affairs so it is a great collection of people from across the entire system,” Woodson says.
The groups are focused on offenses against persons, campus public safety operations, and security reporting. Each will also examine the role of alcohol and drug use in those areas.
The groups have been charged with setting their own agenda and their own timeline and will be reporting back to Woodson and Martin periodically.
“This is really an attempt to make sure that we are benefiting from the knowledge gained from all of the campuses and ensuring that we monitor best practices and share those across the entire system,” Woodson says.
Randy Young, of the UNC Department of Public Safety, says campus law enforcement will be looking to the work done as part of the security review.
“This is something in the wake of a national trend. Some of these reviews come on the Heels of higher levels of scrutiny across the entire nation and in industry trends,” Young says.
Young says in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, campuses, including Chapel Hill, have implemented regular training drills to simulate shootings and hostage situations.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced this spring his intention to focus on campus security in the State. Woodson says Ross has met with McCrory several times and will continue to coordinate efforts with the Governor’s initiatives.