Among the many other events they host throughout the year, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Senate hosted a forum with Campus Public Safety on Oct. 18 in the Pulse. The forum was open to all students who had questions to ask of CPS’s policies, current events that CPS had dealt with on-campus, advice for students’ safety and how CPS’s staff is run. All questions were directed toward and answered by Environmental Health and Safety Manager Robert Dahl.
Before any questions or concerns were addressed in the open forum, Dahl gave a summary of what purposes CPS serves in the campus community. He explained that although the ultimate goal is for officers “to be out there, to be helpful and to be of service” however they can, their specified job overall is to be a “buffer between the university law system and the community law system.”
That said, Dahl added that there are definitely services that students have requested of CPS that are in no way in their job description. Officers have even received calls asking them to attend to feces in stairwells and plunging clogged toilets in residence halls.
But the service CPS does offer that Dahl encouraged students to be aware of is its escort service. If a student is ever feeling uncomfortable walking from a certain area of campus to another or to their living space, CPS will accompany them upon receiving their call. Even students who live off-campus, but still within close proximity can utilize this service as well.
Another service questioned during the forum was residence hall entry. A student described a recent occasion in which she had asked a CPS officer on duty to let her into a residence hall, as she did not have her key card and it was early in the morning. When the officer denied her request and the student called a friend to let her in, the officer proceeded to wait in their car, watching her until she entered the building.
Dahl explained that although there is no concrete rule as to what instances CPS can help students enter their residence building, the situation may have been dependent on the time of day. Yet, he still insisted that if this problem ever were to arise again, he would want to hear about the next day so that a true solution to the problem could be found amongst the staff.
Along the lines of residence hall entry, another student asked Dahl to clarify what rights CPS officers have and do not have when it comes to entering individual dorm rooms on campus. Dahl’s response to this was first by reminding students that when move into any sort of residence hall on campus, they sign a contract agreeing to the rules and regulations that need to be followed in the living space as well as what the consequences would be if they chose not to.
Since then, Dahl added, no policies have been changed in regards to CPS having the right to enter students’ rooms; if there is a suspected problem, they have an obligation to open doors, but he assured, “we aren’t storming into your rooms.”
Dahl said that if CPS were to enter a room to investigate, the actions the officer(s) would take would not only be dependent on the violation, but “even more specific to the demeanor and attitude of those involved.”
He said that as someone who is responsible for the safety and well-being of students, he is looking for accountability among students. If officers are visiting a student’s room, any disrespect or defensive attitude displayed by a student does not help their case. Dahl encouraged students to consider the perspective of a parent and added, “I can’t find a parent anywhere who says they pay $42,000 a year for their kid to smoke dope.”
Because more than just campus violations occur, Dahl also reminded students that punishment received for felonies committed on campus not only apply to the university’s regulations, but outside laws as well.
Dahl explained “the reality is the university exists within city limits,” and with that, the Forest Grove Police Department has just as much authority to enforce the law, if not more, than CPS does. Technically, city officers may not have the need to enter a dorm room, but CPS has the obligation to let them enter in some cases. But, if the violation is less than a felony, the FGPD leaves the matter to Pacific’s judicial system.
This understanding between the two different systems has been reached because CPS tries to maintain a close relationship with the FGPD. Dahl said that it is important for CPS to pay close attention to what goes on in the city and “even closer when it’s in close radius to campus.”
Another concern Dahl addressed was the ability of officers to tend to every need that students may have. Dahl said that typically, only one officer is on duty. It would be helpful to be able to have more than that if it was possible, but currently, “money is the issue.”
Dahl listed off the credentials expected when hiring a new staff member and explained that although each officer on staff has valuable experience in either the military, emergency services or security that allowed them to be hired with Pacific, the job of overseeing an entire campus as one officer is still difficult. The 16-month-long training process that officers are required to complete can only prepare them for so much.
Some responsibilities need to be taken by students in order for a safer atmosphere on campus, according to Dahl. As an example, Dahl simply stated that the beginning of this semester held a lot of incidents that could have been prevented if they had been reported, but they were not. Change occurs much more frequently and effectively when people “come together as a community,” Dahl said. “We need to encourage each other to live responsibly.”
Dahl concluded the open forum with the assurance that “my door is always open.”