When students told Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz that they felt they didn’t have a way to voice complaints or concerns about UNC Police conduct and other campus safety issues, he created the Campus Safety Commission.
The 20-member commission met for the first time May 1, starting the gathering with a moment of silence for the victims of the UNC Charlotte campus shooting that left two dead and four injured the day before.
Guskiewicz named three co-chairs for the commission: Frank Baumgartner, political science professor; DeVetta Holman Copeland, resiliency and student support programs coordinator; and Manny Hernandez, outgoing president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.
“We have a crisis of trust on our campus and we have to determine how to address that,” Baumgartner said. “We must be transparent and open.”
The commission’s mission is to:
- Assess the campus climate and culture around campus safety;
- Provide vision and guidance to the University in the delivery of campus safety services;
- Engage in communication and develop a mutual understanding of roles and expectations between the community and UNC Police; and
- Serve as a conduit for relaying information and concerns about campus policing policies, practices and related actions to the University administration and UNC Police.
The commission, which will advise the Chancellor and his senior leadership team, will not provide direct oversight over UNC Police but will offer input, feedback and recommendations for improvements to policies, procedures and practices. Guskiewicz is also committed to meeting monthly with the co-chairs and reporting back to Derek Kemp, associate vice chancellor for campus safety and risk management, and Jonathan Pruitt, vice chancellor for finance and operations.
Discussion at the first meeting covered a range of topics: how broadly safety should be defined, the possibility of conducting surveys or listening sessions to receive direct feedback from the campus community, and how to identify and communicate about safety-related resources on campus.
Guskiewicz identified three priorities for the commission’s next meeting:
- Assessing the current campus climate and thinking about how to define “campus safety”;
- Deciding how to look critically at existing policies and thinking about if changes need to be made; and
- Identifying the most efficient and trusted way for complaints to come into the committee.
Members of the commission will meet monthly during the academic year and at least once over the summer and will prepare an annual report to be presented each May. The next commission meetings are set for 10 a.m.-noon June 12 and July 10.