Dakota Thomas| Co-Executive Editor| firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 23 Dawn Ellinwood, Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Students sent out an email to all students explaining changes in Public Safety. The email explained beginning on March 27 Green Mountain Concert Services (GMCS) will be joining Public Safety to patrol the overnight shift from midnight to 8:00 a.m. to support St. Michael’s College Public Safety officers while they continue to hire for open positions in the department.
GMCS is familiar to St.Michael’s providing additional security for events such as P-Day, commencement, and other highlighted weekends. They will be on campus to support our current public safety officers and residence life staff as they continue to look for officers to fill open positions.
A lack of officers is not just a problem at St. Michael’s but a problem that has been seen in Burlington Police Department and law enforcement positions across the country since 2020. According to CNN, a national survey by the Police Executive Research Forum found that police departments around the country on average were filling 93% of available budgeted positions. Here at St. Michael’s recruitment problems cause a heavier burden for those who do work for public safety.
As of now St. Michael’s has two part-time and five full-time public safety officers. Normally public safety has eight full-time and three part-time officers and are attempting to hire in these vacant positions. In comparison to other small schools in New England,Middlebury Collegehas six officers as well as two Sergeants and one Lieutenant according to its website. Considering St. Michael’s is about 1,000 students smaller than Middlebury, our public safety staff is nearly equal in size.
This addition of GMCS to public safety is temporary and will only be doing surveillance, not interacting with students at all. “We want them (GMCS) to call , and if an officer still wasn’t here, it would be an RD or the AD (Associate Dean), because students don’t know them- they’ve gone through all background checks and are safe to be here, but we want to work with our students.” Ellinwood said.
Jeffrey Vincent, associate dean of students/director of Residence Life and Community Standards said that Residence Life is also responding to vacancies in public safety by having two resident directors (RDs) on duty during night shifts instead of just one. Vincent praised the work of RDs and how they have taken on more responsibilities in light of hiring issues in public safety. Nothing has changed in the responsibilities of RAs as protocol is still the same and RAs go to RDs with any issues they may encounter.
Christian Dowd, residence director for Cashman Hall (GEAR Housing); Pontigny Hall; Canterbury Hall (GREAT/Honors/LGBTQIA+ Housing) spoke about the changes as a residence director. “The initial proposal led to some level of stress, but we are accustomed to handling most situations without additional RD support and, from my understanding, there hasn’t been an active need to utilize the backup thus far.” Dowd said. He also stated that RDs are being compensated for these extra hours.
Vincent said this addition of GMCS will have little impact on student safety but also encouraged students to take their safety seriously. “You have to be vigilant about your safety, on and off campus, no matter what. And that means taking care of each other, that means calling when you need help immediately,” Vincent said. Vincent also emphasized the small size of our campus and the Fire and Rescue and Public Safety just across the street response times to emergencies are very quick.
Director of Public Safety Jeffery Favreau is currently out of the office on medical leave. Peter Soons, former Public Safety Director at St. Michael’s for over 20 years has been acting as Interim Director for the past few weeks. Soons, while not present when the decision to contract GMCS was made, said that they will have a very limited role on campus. “They (GMCS) are eyes and ears on campus, they are someone people can turn to, and they are also going to support Residence Life, because Residence Life is here 24/7 as well, and if anything happens during the period of time we have people on-call,” Soons said.
As the academic year begins to close, administrators said they see no cause for concern.. “Everything stays in place, don’t make yourself vulnerable, lock your doors, lock your cars- all those things, nothing changes, we all need to take responsibility for ourselves at the same time, but we are here if something goes awry, and in those hours we have someone here, res-life is here, and we have someone on call,” Soons said. For students, safety measures are what they have always been, locking your windows and doors, paying attention to your surroundings, calling the switchboard if you see something suspicious, but if anything were to happen there are the resources available on campus.