Campus Safety adjusts role due to COVID-19

With the unique demands brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Campus Safety at Lawrence looks a little different this year.

Campus Safety’s job is to keep the Lawrence campus a safe place for students and staff, but that has not always entailed social distancing and mask-wearing. This year, Campus Safety’s responsibilities have shifted largely to include enforcing “The Pledge” — the commitment that all on-campus students have made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through new safety protocol.

There is now a need to regulate normally benign acts, such as groups of students gathering, which may pose risks to the health of the campus community. However, Safety Officer and Night Shift Supervisor Kevin Goggins said that, in his experience, “99.9 percent of the calls Campus Safety gets, the students aren’t violating [The Pledge] — they’re eating, or they really are socially distanced.” And, when there is a problem, he has found students to be very willing to correct their errors without hesitation.

The most significant change in Campus Safety’s operation, Goggins said, is the decrease in interaction that has been necessary in all aspects of life since the pandemic began. For example, they are no longer regularly escorting groups of students downtown, something that Goggins misses.

“It’s different for us because of the fact that our department really likes to have a lot of contact with the students, and, of course, we’ve pulled back,” Goggins said. 

However, Campus Safety is still available to escort individual students if they are ever in need. Freshman Brianna Carvalho first interacted with Campus Safety this term while helping a friend who had sprained her ankle get back to her dorm. After being unable to get to the Wellness Center to see a nurse, she found that Campus Safety “really turned the situation around” by offering to wrap her friend’s ankle and drive her back to her dorm.

Of course, a truly safe campus is one that is safe for all students. On Sep. 26, a number of hate crimes were committed in Appleton, including a racist and anti-Semitic incident in a residential neighborhood adjacent to the Lawrence campus, left many feeling unsafe, according to Goggins. 

“There’s no place on this campus, there’s no place anywhere for what transpired,” Goggins said. “We try to have saturation as much as we can, to patrol, get our buildings secure and get out with the students … to make sure everything is being done to protect not only property, but the students and the people on campus.”

To achieve this, Campus Safety aims to hire more staff, which can be difficult, Goggins said. “This job requires people to be a role model, security agent and manager of people, and you better be able to do all three … [Campus Safety doesn’t] want to hire somebody just for the sake of hiring somebody” but rather pick people who are best suited for the job.

Although COVID-19 has changed many of Campus Safety’s day-to-day operations, Goggins still encourages students to contact Campus Safety any time they feel unsafe. Campus Safety can be reached any time at 920-832-6999.

“We want to be ‘user-friendly,’” he said. “If they want an escort, we’ll make sure it gets taken care of … We want the students to feel, if there’s a problem, or they want to talk, we’re there for them.” 

This story has been updated with the correct information. We apologize for the error.