Ahead Of The Curve | Beaufort County Now | East Carolina University is taking steps to strengthen its record on campus security at the same time a University of North Carolina report has outlined system-wide best practices on safety and security.

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    Publisher's note: The author of this post, Kelly Setzer, is a contributor to ECU News Services.

ECU to continue strong emphasis on campus safety

    East Carolina University is taking steps to strengthen its record on campus security at the same time a University of North Carolina report has outlined system-wide best practices on safety and security.

    The University of North Carolina Campus Security Initiative report, released July 31 to a Board of Governors' committee, represents more than a year of research and evaluation by a task force made up of representatives from the system's 17 institutions. Its recommendations are broad, targeting goals and best practices for crime prevention, alcohol education, sexual violence, Title IX compliance and law enforcement.

Incoming students and parents listen to a presentation by ECU Police during summer orientation. The UNC Campus Security Initiative launched July 31 by the Board of Governors makes safety recommendations for all 17 campuses in the university system. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

    Co-chaired by NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold Martin, initiative work groups drew on expertise from every level of the UNC system, as well as outside specialists.

    At the presentation, Woodson said, "We are well ahead of the curve in the national discussion because of the work we've done here. In fact, we're the first (university) system in America to comprehensively address the issue of campus safety for our students. I'm very proud of that."

    UNC President Tom Ross said, "This was a very large and comprehensive group that represented every one of our campuses."

    He added, "We've gotten support from national experts, and I think you're going to hear about some recommendations that are consistent with all of the discussion of what people think we ought to be doing; we're already ahead of the game to recommend those and in the next few months, we'll be bringing forward implementation plans."

    Many of the task force's recommendations were modeled after efforts already underway at ECU, reflecting a long standing focus on strong campus security, according to Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for student affairs at ECU and a member of the UNC task force. Donna Payne, vice chancellor for legal affairs, also served on the task force as did former provost Marilyn Sheerer.

    "The safety of our students has long been a top priority across all units at East Carolina University, and so we have positioned ourselves to be ahead of the curve in terms of implementing many of these recommendations," Hardy said.

    At least 18 of the 36 recommendations from the report are either completed or in progress at East Carolina, according to Hardy. Measures already in force include:

  • Formalizing Title IX responsibilities. When sexual violence happens on a college or university campus, it is a law enforcement issue as well as a federal issue due to statutes addressing sex discrimination, which includes sexual violence, at educational institutions. ECU has in place both a Title IX coordinator and a deputy coordinator.
  • Title IX response team. A Title IX response team at ECU has operated since spring 2014. The group meets every two weeks (and as necessary) to evaluate and manage case investigation issues.
  • Targeted law enforcement training. Newly hired officers with the ECU Police Department must successfully complete the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy, which includes sex offense investigation and domestic violence response training. All newly hired officers and telecommunicators must also read the Pitt County Sexual Assault Response Protocol, which is a countywide procedure. Officers have received in excess of 3,600 hours of training in crime prevention, sexual assault investigations, domestic violence/stalking awareness and crime scene investigations.
  • Counseling certification. ECU has two Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialists (N.C. licensure for substance abuse counseling) on staff at the university's Center for Counseling and Student Development.
  • Good Samaritan Policy. A statewide leader in the development of this type of policy, ECU's Good Samaritan regulation was approved by the chancellor in May 2014 and can be viewed in full here.
  • Clery Act compliance officer. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, passed in 1990, requires educational institutions to track and disclose crime data, including sex offenses. At ECU, police have a dedicated staff member documenting data, specifically for Clery Act reporting.
  • Mandatory alcohol education for freshmen. All incoming freshmen under the age of 21 must complete an online alcohol education module called AlcoholEdu.
  • Law enforcement collaboration. Pitt County law enforcement agency executives meet monthly to share information on cases, trends and initiatives. Direct regular communication occurs between ECU Police Chief Gerald Lewis and Greenville Police Chief Aden. Other collaborations include Greenville Regional Drug Task Force and special duty assignments in downtown Greenville and the neighborhoods adjacent to the university.

    In addition, ECU identified a number of actions the report recommends that are underway and can be accomplished with existing resources and without additional cost, including:

  • Comprehensive Title IX communication plan, including centralized web site. A central web resource is expected to be in place for start of fall semester classes.
  • Conduct campus climate survey. Planned for Spring 2015.
  • Annual sexual assault training for police. ECU Police is developing an annual officer in-service training on sexual assault response and investigation through a collaborative effort with ECU's Title IX coordinator and Student Counseling Center.
  • Title IX tabletop exercise. Hands-on practice of communication and other tactics by a wide range of trained staff planned for fall semester 2014.
  • Regular reports on campus security to trustees and top leaders. The associate vice chancellor for environmental health & campus safety reports annually to the ECU Board of Trustees and the chancellor's executive council with crime data, accomplishments and goals related to campus safety. Staff members are prepared to support reporting to the UNC-GA and Board of Governors on a regular basis.

    A number of the additional action steps the report recommends — such as increasing public safety officer pay — require either a system-wide approach or additional resources. ECU will work collaboratively on system-wide initiatives and will continue to review steps that may require funding, and thus need ECU Board of Trustees discussion.

    The task force members told the Board of Governors July 31 that it developed the 36 recommended actions with the common goal of protecting students from harm. That mirrors ECU's overall priority, said Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor for environmental health and safety at ECU.

    "We are always looking at ways to continuously improve, ensuring that ECU remains a leader in campus safety and security," said Koch.

    After the presentation, Greenville resident and Board of Governors member Henry Hinton said, "I think that the campus safety trends are something we've got to take very seriously and should ensure is a priority. Funding is going to be an issue, as always, but I think we're just going to have to find a way to make it work."
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