COUNCIL Discussion at March 24 Meeting
Vice President Thomas Seamon's presentation at Council, condensed from a tape recording.--Ed.
Public Safety: A Three-Part Report with Questions and Answers
Vice President Seamon: I was asked this afternoon to provide information on multiple issues to the Council. Those issues are-and I'll take them in the order that they were presented to me:
The first issue was a request for emergency alarms in each stall in every bathroom at all University buildings. We've looked at this, and unfortunately there are no standards regarding bathroom panic alarms in the security industry. The reason is that there are almost no institutions, except for medical and nursing home facilities, that feel the need to have alarms in bathrooms. The purpose for the alarms in those facilities is usually to summon aid in a medical emergency. We inquired over our national network--IACLEA, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators--regarding panic alarms in universities and college bathrooms across the country: Were there any standards? Most institutions do not have any type of bathroom panic alarms. Those that do have them either in specific locations such as bathrooms in athletic facilities or in a bathroom where they've experienced a previous incident.
However, taking into account the history of restroom alarms at Penn, we believe that a reasonable standard is to place one alarm device near the door in each bathroom and one in every handicap stall. In very large bathrooms, we might suggest that we also install an additional alarm device at the far end of the bathroom. We have a very high number of false alarms from the existing bathroom panic alarms throughout the campus. In many respects this is more dangerous than having no alarms at all. The people--both people within the building (students and staff) and the responding police officers and security officers--obviously become used to these false alarms, and human nature being what it is, people assume then that the alarms are never real alarms, they're always false alarms. And of course as you multiply the number of devices, the opportunities for mechanical malfunction or for a false alarm begin to multiply.
Also, we do not have a history--thankfully-of attacks in our restroom facilities across the campus. Now obviously, last November's incident in Wharton was very high-profile, but that was a real aberration when we go back into our statistics. We believe that security money is better spent on our ongoing program of securing the perimeter of all our buildings. Realizing that there's a finite amount of money that can be spent in any particular year on safety and security on the campus, what we're first trying to do is secure the buildings so that only authorized staff, students and visitors are in the buildings at any one time. To do that first, rather than worrying about an unauthorized person getting into a room inside a building. We are installing the new alarms as new facilities are brought on line throughout the University, and when there are major renovations in existing facilities, then we are upgrading the restroom alarms that are in those facilities.
The second request by the group was on multiple advocacy resources beyond the Penn Police and CAPS. This issue has been discussed, and continues to be discussed, by the Safety and Security Committee. Frankly, I am not in a position to provide resources beyond, obviously, what the Division of Public Safety has. So I think that the proper venue would be for the special interest groups to continue their ongoing dialogue with the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life regarding this matter.
The third request was more frequent publication of the step-by-step procedures for reporting crimes, for publicizing crime statistics, and a list of campus resources regarding safety and security. The publication of crime statistics and notifications of crimes is governed by law, and we think we not only adhere to those requirements of law, but we exceed them at Penn. I do believe that the University does an adequate job of listing campus resources through numerous publications that are distributed to students and staff. Examples would be the Safer Living Guide that the Division of Public Safety puts out, and most individual schools put out informational booklets to their students and their staff. In addition, Public Safety Division is enhancing its web site as an additional resource for information regarding policies, and also the crime alerts that we send around about specific instances that are of interest to the entire community. So what we intend to do in the future is not only continue to send those crime alerts by fax and by other means, but also to put them on our web site.
The fourth request was for a mandatory workshop specifically addressing interpersonal violence, violence prevention, resources for crimes and victims--especially with sensitivity to women's needs--and that those mandatory workshops be integrated into all new student orientations. The Division of Public Safety is given a limited time slot at the beginning of the year to provide a wealth of information on a host of safety and security issues. I discussed this with several of the representatives in the various interest groups, and unfortunately, we have no time to give up in that orientation to other groups. And certainly it's not within our purview in Public Safety to make any orientation sessions mandatory. We do support the concept of some mandatory orientation sessions--certainly we would like our own Public Safety's to be mandatory, and I'm sure you could pick some others that are of great importance to the entire student body that perhaps ought to be mandatory, and we should continue to discuss that. And certainly we would be happy to assist other groups who want to put on workshops regarding specific safety issues.
Arrests: To the request for information regarding Public Safety's practices and policies regarding the arrest of Penn faculty, staff or students, I thought it would be of interest just to tell you, for instance, last calendar year, from January 1, 1998, to the end of 1998, Penn Police made a total of 571 arrests; 42 of those arrests were of students; 14 of those arrests were of employees. So far this year, calendar year '99, I'm happy to report that there have been no arrests of students through almost three months, and there have been six arrests of employees on and around the campus.
In regard to the notification procedures when a student or staff member is arrested, we've done some research; and there's very little in the way of written policies or procedures on any type of notification on the arrest of student, staff or faculty. The procedure that we follow with an arrest of a student--whether we make the arrest or we're notified by another law enforcement agency that a student has been arrested--is that we immediately notify the staff of the Vice Provost for University Life, who then makes necessary notifications to residence halls, any academic advisors, etc. With an arrest of a staff or a faculty member, notifications really are governed by the criminal law. So for instance, when someone is brought into custody by the Penn Police or the Philadelphia Police, it is their option to decide whom they want to notify or they would like the police to notify-the police do not automatically notify anyone. Obviously there are people who would rather that their friends and family not know of the arrest. What we do is--on the next business day or at least within one or two business days as it is possible--we notify the staff member's supervisor and notify Human Resources of the arrest.
Minority Representation: To answer the request for a report on minority representation by rank, I chose data for the period that I've been here at Public Safety. I took over the Division on September 25, 1995, so we've researched the Human Resource statistics for the Division since that date. We have moved buildings several times and the administration before me kept records in a different fashion, so I wanted to bring statistics that I'm confident are accurate.
If we look at the period of September 25, 1995, to September 26, 1996, 33.9% of the employees in Public Safety were minority employees. The next year, '96 through '97, 37.3% of the employees were minorities. The following year, '97 through '98, 39% of the employees in Public Safety were minorities. In that minority group, the overwhelming number are African-American, with a small number of Asian and other ethnic groups reflected. For September '98 to the present, 38.8% of the staff in Public Safety are minorities.
Regarding hiring statistics for that same period of time, from September 25, 1995, through the following year, 33.3% of the hires by Public Safety were minority. The year after that, '96 through '97, 48% of the hires were minority. From '97 through '98, 48.2% of the employees hired were minority. And this year, from September 25 to the present, 28.5% of the hires were minority. This year we're only probably in the middle of this year and, as normal with Public Safety, we will probably be hiring a large group of people in the summer; so those statistics are not complete for the year yet.
Looking at supervisory and professional personnel, the percentages of minorities by race in the Division of Public Safety, and to go over that same time period, from September 25, '95, until the following September of '96, 30.4% of the supervisory personnel in Public Safety were minorities. The following year, '96 through '97, 28.5% of the supervisory staff were minorities. 1997 through '98, 28.5% were minorities, and September 25 to the present--once again, the year is not done--22.2% of the supervisors in Public Safety were minorities. And finally, in regard to promotional statistics, and I lumped this into the entire period from when I took over Public Safety in September '95 to the present, 29.4% of all of our promotions in Public Safety were minorities.
Dr. Phoebe Leboy: With respect to the request for information on minorities by rank, I don't really understand what supervisory professionals are, so let me try to get that in another way. Could you tell us something about history of minority representation at ranks above sergeant among the police officers for the '96 to '98 period?
Mr. Seamon: When I first came, in 1995, there were two minority sergeants in Public Safety; there was one captain and one director. At the present time there are three sergeants who are minority within the Police Department. And I might add, the three sergeants were all promoted during my tenure.
Terri White: I have a couple of concerns about the response to the open forum issues, and one is on referring to the students who spoke as special interest groups. I'm a little offended by that and I really do take issue with describing them in that way. I think they represent the interest of students--they happen to be women--but I would not label them as special interest because it tends to minimize the importance of their concerns.
Let me speak specifically about one of your recommendations. The question of access to multiple advocacy resources beyond Public Safety and CAPS. As I understand it, your response was to refer them to the Vice Provost for University Life, but I think the issue at hand is that the protocol is es-tablished by Public Safety, not the Vice Provost for University Life. If students are going to be informed and referred to other resources, then that needs to start with Public Safety, and Public Safety needs to work with the other resources. I think that was the concern that was being expressed. So sending them back to the Vice Provost, I really don't understand as an adequate response.
Mr. Seamon: Certainly there's no disrespect meant by me by labeling some of the groups that were here special interest groups. I take that as something that is very important and very beneficial around the campus; as a matter of fact, we deal with special interest groups all the time and we think that they do great work. Certainly I didn't mean it at all as any type of derogatory term--actually, I see it as a compliment.
To your second point, regarding other resource groups: Public Safety does not set the protocol for how students should have access to the multiple resources around the campus. We provide service to victims who come to us; if they are victims of crime we try to urge them to use the criminal justice system. At the same time, whether they enter into that system or decline to use the system, we support them in every way possible, including making them aware of all the other resource groups on campus and how they can have access to those resource groups. But we do not set the protocol of where a victim or someone in need of services should go regarding any of the resource groups, or in what order they should go to those groups.
Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum: I just wanted to make a clarification--I wanted to let everyone on Council and all guests know that VPUL did follow up in great detail with the members of the women's community who came forward at the Open Forum and, in addition to the VPUL resources that we already have in place, we have committed additional resources and set up additional resources and programs to support the evident needs of students.
Ms. Liou: Thank you. My name is Angie Liou and I'm one of the co-chairs of Penn NOW. As you all know, last December we brought up four concerns to Council. Here I would like to clear up some points about what Public Safety has just presented. There's a limited time, so I would just like to address our #2 concern, which is multiple victim advocacy of resources. We do understand that Public Safety is a key in improving victim advocacy systems, and in educating this campus about sexual violence; and what we're asking for is for a better coordinated system for Public Safety to work with other resources such as VPUL and Women's Center. For example, during our meeting with VPUL and the Sexual and Relationshop Violence Task Force, which is under VPUL, we drafted a list of ten recommendations....
Ms. Liou resumes: I would just like to ask Public Safety's position, because I understand that you said that you don't have complete control over the process and all the resource centers, but what we're asking is that... [words lost to tape turnover] and Public Safety work with other resource centers to help coordinate a better victim advocacy system.
Mr. Seamon: We've had meetings with a number of the groups that were here in December; I've even had the pleasure of being on a radio talk show with one of them. We are involved right now--and Dr. Susan Hawkins is taking the lead for Public Safety--in meeting with the various groups and trying to improve the protocols and the provision of resources throughout the campus. Certainly when I said we don't control those resources, it's almost a little bit a sense of frustration on my part too. We see the needs first-hand and we see the multiple resources around campus and we agree with you that they probably could be better coordinated. And so we agree wholeheartedly and are working with VPUL to get a better coordination of the wide variety of services that are available for victims or for people who need education on these issues around campus.
At the December 1998 Open Forum, students presented Council with a list of four demands regarding their concerns about safety after the assault on a University student in Steinberg-Dietrich. Council referred the students to its Committee on Safety & Security, and at that meeting I volunteered to have the students meet with the Sexual Violence and Relationship Committee that has been monitoring such issues for many years. The students then generated ten recommendations and asked to have them read into the record of Council March 24; I do so now:
The implementation plans for the remaining recommendations are being developed:
In addition to this reading into the record of the students' recommendations above, I want to clarify for the record a few points regarding Vice President Seamon's response at Council on March 24:
On bathroom alarms: In response to their expressed need for improvements in campus-wide bathroom alarms, Mr. Seamon said that there is no "standard" for universities and colleges. The request was not to meet a any external standard but to meet the need as it has been shown to exist at Penn. During my time here, Penn has more often led than followed, setting the standard for excellence in many areas, and particularly women's safety issues. Penn's national leadership in this arena would be enhanced by the implementation of the students' recommendations and is consistent with the President's Agenda for Excellence.
Further on this topic, Mr. Seamon stated that there is no "history of assaults occurring in bathrooms." There is a very real history of such assaults--it was a wave of assaults and thefts in bathrooms, and a devastating knifing and rape in the women's room of DRL, that led to the installation of bathroom alarms throughout the University starting in the late 'seventies. The alarms were a very successful deterrent; and since the measure of a deterrent's success is the number of people not harmed, it is now possible today for Mr. Seamon to perceive no history of these assaults and for the recent one in Steinberg-Dietrich to be perceived as an aberration. But it is the aberration that the students ask to be protected from, when they ask for improvements. When it comes to assault, one incident in one bathroom is one too many.
On victim advocacy resources: The students are asking for easier access to and collaboration among multiple victim advocacy resources beyond the Penn Police and CAPS, with specific reference to the Penn Women's Center. Mr. Seamon responds in terms of the resources over which he has control. It was not suggested by the students that Mr. Seamon cooperate only with those resources he controls, but that he is in a position to direct his staff to collaborate with all available resources and help to maintain a system in which there is more than one avenue to assistance and support for victims. For example, at Council Mr. Seamon's example of collaboration was that after a victim has registered with the Penn Police, he or she would be informed of the option to seek counseling elsewhere. But in the counseling of victims of sexual violence, it has been shown that the support of non-police agencies such as WOAR and women's crisis centers is often what is needed to strengthen the victim and enable her to face going to the police. This suggests that in printed materials and safety presentations, Public Safety should be giving as much weight to the option to start with the Penn Women's Center as it did in earlier years here. A concrete illustration of the de-emphasis on the Penn Women's Center option is in the changed wording of the section on Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Violence in the Campus Safety and Security Report last year.
Later in his report to Council, Mr. Seamon said that a member of his staff has been meeting with various groups to better coordinate resources. It is important to note that the VPUL is responsible for and has been coordinating divisional and University-wide resources in response to incidents involving students for quite a long period of time. As Associate Vice Provost, I have oversight responsibilities for Penn's Emergency Procedures Manual, and have provided leadership in the training for the implementation of the Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Violence Policy. In these activities, the role of the Penn Women's Center as an integral component of Penn's victim advocacy system is quite clear. I have convened several meetings in an effort to address the shift in Public Safety's philosophy and practice regarding the coordination of crisis response and the successful collaborative approach which was in place prior to Mr. Seamon's arrival and which has been a model for other campuses. I believe what our students are asking is not that Public Safety set up a new oversight but that it rejoin us in the synergistic approach to victim support.
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 27, April 6, 1999