Faculty handcuffed by strict police policies

After dozens of faculty members complained about the hostile conduct of Campus Police, the faculty senate decided to take action.

According to Faculty Senate President Michael Robertson, the faculty has three main complaints about Campus Police.

The first is the attitude of the police. “Too many of the police officers have an extremely aggressive and hostile attitude,” Robertson said.

Robertson said many faculty members felt like they were treated as criminals when dealing with Campus Police.

The second issue is overzealous enforcement, according to Robertson. The faculty is upset that officers spend their time on issues that have no effect on the security of the campus, such as checking for any cars with expired registrations and towing them if they do.

Robertson also said that many faculty members in the science and arts departments have faced “unremitting harassment” when trying to drop off equipment.

The third faculty complaint concerned the “effect of all this on the visitors to our campus,” Robertson said. He said he has heard multiple reports of visitors facing hostile attitudes from the police.

“This hostile, confrontational atmosphere destroys the community of the College,” Robertson said.

These issues first came to the attention of Robertson in September, when a colleague mentioned hearing three separate complaints about Campus Police – two from faculty members and one from an administrator. The person suggested the faculty senate investigate, so Robertson called the three people who had complained about Campus Police.

They sent Robertson to other faculty that had experienced similar issues. Within two weeks, Robertson contacted several faculty members who had complaints about Campus Police.

As a result of these initial complaints, Robertson and Faculty Senate Vice President Deborah Compte set up a meeting with Curt Heuring, vice president of Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, and Kathryn Leverton, associate vice president for Administrative and Environmental Services.

However, the majority of the faculty was unaware of this meeting, and at 1 a.m. on Oct. 11, a faculty member wrote a complaint on the faculty list-serv.

“(The e-mail) unleashed a flood,” Robertson said. By the time he checked his e-mail at 9 a.m., there were dozens of e-mails complaining about Campus Police.

Robertson e-mailed the faculty and explained that he had already been investigating, and informed them of the meeting the following day. He also invited people to send complaints to him directly, and went to the meeting with a thick stack of complaints.

At the meeting, Robertson and Compte proposed a joint committee with members from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Government Association (SGA).

A resolution to form a committee to “consider ways to strenthen relations between Campus Police and the broader campus community” was proposed Oct. 18 to the faculty senate, staff senate and SGA, and passed, according to Compte.

The committee will forward its recommendations to College President R. Barbara Gitenstein and Heuring by the end of the semester.

Christine Cullen, SGA executive president, said James Gant, SGA executive vice president, Steve Viola, junior class representative, and Mohammad Amer, freshman class president, will join the committee.

“Any faculty member is grateful to have Campus Police . aiding the security and safety of the campus,” Robertson said. “But the law can be enforced while still maintaining a caring, respectful community.”

“We take this issue very seriously,” Matthew Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations said. “But (we) also believe our Campus Police officers have long been positive and valued members of our college community.”

Robertson said he and Compte spoke with Gitenstein, interim provost Beth Paul, Heuring and Leverton throughout this process.

“Every one of those four people is aware of this problem and genuinely wants to bring the campus community together to work on this problem,” he said.