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The future of campus security

How do you improve the safety of the state’s largest university, in the busy heart of the state’s most populous city? That was the question President Wim Wiewel put to a task force made up of PSU administrators, faculty and students.

An all-campus forum to talk about the task force report, originally scheduled for April 30, has been postponed to the fall. The date and time will be announced well ahead of the event. Meanwhile, the online feedback form will remain open for your comments, which will be part of the discussion.

The Task Force on Campus Safety met for six months in 2013, analyzing the challenges of improving response time and making security more effective across the 50-acre campus. It looked at crime statistics, current staffing, student perceptions of safety, and much more. The process included forums for students, faculty and staff to express their opinions about campus safety. 

The task force recently released a 31-page report with a set of options on how security can be improved. It takes a fresh look at systems that have been in place for years, including campus safety escorts, emergency blue-light phones, and building access badges. It makes recommendations to increase access control of buildings, and improve safety awareness and emergency preparation. It also recommends an expanded security presence on campus, including the possibility of sworn police officers.

We want your feedback. Please download a copy of the full 31-page report then give us your input.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is the Task Force on Campus Safety?

A: The task force is made up of PSU administrators, faculty and students. Their charge is to provide President Wiewel with recommendations on how to best address safety concerns and improve the University’s response to criminal activity on campus. 

Q:  Why are we doing this?

A:  The PSU campus has more than twice the buildings it had in 1976 and nearly twice the student body. We want to make sure the campus has adequate security to handle the needs of Oregon’s largest university.

Q: Does this mean the campus is unsafe?

A: No.  But the fact that Portland State is an urban campus that blends with the surrounding city gives us unique challenges. That’s a big reason why the task force was created.

Q: Emergency blue-light phones are all over campus. Aren’t these adequate for emergencies?

A: Blue phone technology was developed before much of the campus population carried cell phones. Not many people use it. Only 22 calls were made from the blue-light phones in 2013, mostly by people who were locked out of buildings or needed directions. The University wants to explore more effective options.

Q:  Is there a problem with campus security escorts?

A:  Only from the standpoint that the current security staff is stretched.  The Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) offers free safety escort services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to students, faculty, staff and visitors.  It gets requests every day, yet during a typical shift it has only three officers to patrol the 50-acre campus. At times, officers must weigh whether to provide this service or address other incidents on campus.

Q:  What do students think of security on campus?

A: ASPSU conducted a survey in 2013. Of the 307 students who responded, a high percentage said they felt safe on campus, but most said they were not aware of the services CPSO provides or how to get in touch with CPSU if they needed help.  Forty-five percent of respondents said PSU should have more safety officers. A third of the respondents said PSU should not have its own police force, although 65 percent were either favorable or neutral on the idea. This is useful information, but it represents only about 1 percent of the student body. We want to know more, which is why we're asking for feedback.

Q: Do the options for expanding security mean CPSO will be armed?

A: Not necessarily. The three options in the report for improving safety all explore ways of getting access to a sworn police department on campus with the option of being armed. What’s happening now is a process with public input to help us determine our best option.

Q: How much will it cost?  Does it worsen our budget shortfall?

A: The task force didn’t address costs and funding. It was asked for recommendations to create the best possible security on the PSU campus. Once a decision is made, the University will determine the cost of implementation.

Q:  How do I give feedback or get involved?

A:  Follow this link to give your feedback. PSU also will hold a campus forum for more public input.