OSU offers several programs dedicated to protecting students, visitors, staff
Walking through the Oregon State University campus, it’s not uncommon for an individual to see Department of Public Safety and Oregon State Police vehicles on the street. While these are two of the more visible safety measures provided at OSU, other programs are also in place for the safety of students, staff and visitors.
OSU’s Division of Finance and Administration offers various public safety services and resources. These include, but are not limited to, the DPS, ASOSU SafeRide and Blue Light Emergency Phones.
“Safety is our number one priority at Oregon State. If students, faculty and staff do not feel safe, they cannot learn well or do their jobs well as teachers, researchers or staff members,” Steve Clark, vice president of university relations and marketing, said.
The OSU campus has two safety-officer organizations, the DPS and OSP. DPS officers are directly employed by OSU, while OSP are contracted into working on the OSU campus.
“The Oregon State police basically takes care of the criminal aspect of what happens on campus. Crime prevention or if a crime is committed is where they step in. They also have the resources for large investigations and different scaled operations,” Campus Public Safety Officer Michael Mitchell said. “I, as in the Department of Public Safety, my job is more designed towards the policies and procedures of the school. If a student has broken a policy or a procedure, but is not necessarily breaking a law, that’s where I would come in. We also patrol the campus, checking for safety violations or criminal activity, and then it can be reported to the Oregon State Police if need be, or dealt with in our department.”
According to Mitchell, there is at least one DPS officer and one OSP officer on campus at all times. However, the DPS aims to have two to three of each officer on campus most of the time.The number of officers then increases when the OSU campus has certain events or days when the campus is busy, as well as more officers at night, Mitchell added.
On top of the DPS and OSP officers, OSU also provides safety resources and services for students.
ASOSU SafeRide is an alternative, secure ride home for OSU students to get to either campus or their home residence. Funded by student fees, SafeRide operates seven days a week from the hours of 7 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. with five 10-passenger vans and one Americans with Disabilities Act accessible van that holds five people.
SafeRide is available to any student that is in need of a ride because they do not feel safe driving themselves, do not have access to a safe source of transportation or do not feel comfortable or safe walking to or from a destination.
Students can request a ride through the SafeRide app. If students do not have a smartphone, iPad or tablet available to use the app, they can also call the dispatcher to request a ride. Once a ride is requested, SafeRide employees are notified within the active vans that night. Each van has two SafeRide employees, one driver and one taking ride requests. The ride request is received on an iPad in the van. From there, the SafeRide employee determines an estimated wait time and confirms with the student that their ride request went through. For students that request rides using the app, a SafeRide employee will send a notification when they arrive at the pickup destination.
“The app can be a little bit safer in terms of you don’t have to wait outside for your van to show up; it’ll just tell you when it’s there, as opposed to the phone, you get your ETA and then we hang up and that’s kind of our last connection with you unless you call back. So we try to get people to use the app,” Cierra Giossi, a SafeRide program manager, said.
Although using the app may be safer, the option to request a ride through a phone call remains for equity purposes, according to Giossi. Rides are requested through the SafeRide app 90 percent of the time, while the remaining 10 percent are requested via phone call to the SafeRide dispatcher.
“We always try to accommodate as many students as possible,” Giossi said.
Another safety resource provided by OSU is the Blue Light Emergency Phones. Blue lights are for use by people who feel in imminent danger, as well as those that are experiencing or witnessing a medical emergency, according to Mitchell. Upon pressing a blue light button, the individual is immediately connected to a dispatcher at the DPS building. The individual can then explain to them what the emergency is and the dispatcher can send the proper form of help, Mitchell added.
“We ask that if it is safe to stay in that location, but if you feel like you’re running from somebody, as you run down a line you can hit the next one (blue light button). Just say something, because as soon as you hit (the button) we treat it as an emergency and if we don’t get a response, we’re all coming,” Mitchell said.
There are currently 23 Blue Light Emergency Phones throughout the OSU campus. According to Clark, the Blue Light system is provided to help ensure security for people on the OSU campus.
“Blue Lights are a longstanding presence on campus and have given students, faculty, staff and visitors a sense of comfort and ability to communicate immediately to 911 if they observe any danger or concerns for their safety,” Clark said.
Students can also go to the DPS office on the second floor of Cascade Hall to report crimes or express any questions or concerns regarding campus safety. There are three landline phones on the wall next to the dispatch window that connect directly to dispatch.
“Don’t be afraid to report something. If you see something, if you’re concerned, typically go with that emotion. If something doesn’t seem right, something’s probably not right, so don’t be afraid,” Mitchell said. “If it’s 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, this is our normal shift. To us that’s like the average person at noon, so if you see something it’s never a bad idea just to say something.”
According to Giossi, just because OSU works toward overall campus safety, students need to be aware that things still happen on OSU campus and in Corvallis in general.
“You still have to be really aware of your surroundings and stuff goes on in Corvallis all the time,” Giossi said. “I think that we should definitely not become stagnant in our perception of safety as a campus. I think that we should always be working on making it safer.”
The Division of Finance and Administration has further information on their Public Safety website available to anyone. This information includes more safety resources and services provided on campus, as well as safety checklists and guides, personal safety training tips, information on how to determine when something is suspicious and how to utilize the safety resources on campus.