OSU holds four public safety listening sessions to gain community input

OSU is discussing the possibility of the Corvallis Police Department serving as a transitional law enforcement service provider, according to an email sent by President Edward Ray. Oregon State held four public safety listening sessions to gain input from the community regarding possible transitional and long-term campus law-enforcement service providers. 

Tanveer Sandhu, News Contributor

In its search for future Corvallis campus law-enforcement service providers, Oregon State University held four Public Safety Input and Listening Sessions in which participants took part in small group discussions, expressing their thoughts and opinions on future campus public safety. 

The sessions took place between March 9 and 11 and each opened with a slideshow presenting the agenda, a quick look at the history of public safety at OSU, as well as across the U.S., and at the social and political dimensions of public safety—both in Oregon and nationally. 

A variety of handouts were given to participants to help guide the dialogue. In addition, each group had a facilitator to help keep the discussion on track. Participants were given 60 minutes of deliberation and then 15 minutes to summarize and synthesize common themes from the discussion.

Jeff Kenney, the director of Institutional Education for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion helped organize the public safety sessions. Kenney said they hope to identify common themes from the discussions soon, which will in turn help guide the Public Safety Advisory Committee in its future campus law-enforcement recommendations.

“I am grateful for those who were able to attend,” Kenney said. “Over our four events, we had roughly 80-90 participants. While we did not take registration information from attendees, anecdotally we know that faculty and staff made up the largest proportion in attendance. We had undergraduate and graduate students participate, and they added an important dimension to the dialogue.”

Melissa Greff, a resident director on campus said one major concern was the lack of student turn-out at the sessions. Greff said factors like it being the week before finals and the spread of COVID-19 could have led to less student involvement then they hoped for. 

Kenney seconded this, understanding the lack of student participation: “We recognize that the current COVID-19 public health situation, as well as limitations of people’s time and other circumstances, may have affected levels of participation in the listening sessions,” Kenney said. 

Kenney said they will look for opportunities in the future to increase student participation.

“We are collaborating with student leaders and colleagues in the division of student affairs to explore offering an additional listening session in spring term. We will seek a time and location that we hope will enable student participation,” Kenney said.

Greff, when asked about their own public safety concerns during one of the info sessions, said they would want officers to have implicit bias training.

Ginny Katz, a second-year Ph.D. student studying human geography attended all four public safety sessions.

“Every night there were different perspectives, the first two sessions had more administrators at my table, people that dealt with students that were constantly in crisis and multiple people that represented international students,” Katz said. “That was great, but they were all faculty. They weren’t the actual students themselves.”

Katz highlighted that there wasn’t much representation, especially from students outside the mainstream. “People of color, LGBTQ and non-binary—it would’ve been incredible to have them because I don’t represent that,” Katz said. “We need those people here to talk about their experiences.”

For her own public safety concerns, Katz said, “Having a force that is internal, gives OSU a lot of ability to train them and educate them to the standards of inclusion, diversity, equity, that maybe officers in another force don’t get. They would be able to create a standard of saying all officers at OSU have been trained to this standard because there’s not a standard out there right now.”

Katz invited students to be more involved in the public safety discussion. 

“I’m personally inviting every single student to come to these events, come cheer with me, I’ll be there—I promise you, my name is Ginny,” Katz said. “Come sit with me, and we go through this together, because sure they’re boring, but they are really, really important conversations, not just for you, but for every single student and the students to come.”

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