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Saturday, November 1, 2014 | Last updated: 3:57am

ABOR to establish statewide university task force to increase student safety



The Arizona Board of Regents is working on establishing a tri-university task force in the next few weeks in order to increase student safety across the state.

Although the makeup of the task force has not yet been determined, the regents are looking to include university leaders, community leaders, potential law enforcement members and students, according to Katie Paquet, the board’s vice president for public affairs and external relations.

The task force’s purpose will be to examine issues related to student safety and work with different parties regarding these issues.

“We want to make sure that students attending our university … are studying and living in a safe environment,” Paquet said. “We want to talk about healthy behaviors for all students and things that can contribute to a positive learning environment.”

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Morgan Abraham said he believes the task force is being formed as a result of issues on the Arizona State University campus.

“Let’s be honest,” Abraham said, “the task force is probably in direct response to everything that’s going on at ASU right now, so I was very excited to see that [the task force] happen. For the U of A, I think that we do have our share of things that students are frustrated by and parents are concerned with, as far as safety.”

ASU police recently participated in the component of the Safe and Sober campaign in Tempe related to underage drinking, which was run by Tempe Police. During Phase I, which began August 15, there was youth alcohol enforcement on campus and officers working in the city handled party calls and youth alcohol violations in apartment complexes in the areas that border campus, according to James Hardina, assistant chief of police at ASU. In Phase II, which took place Thursday through Saturday, officers were primarily responsible for enforcement during tailgating.

Total arrests to date through the Safe and Sober campaign total more than 1,000, according to a Tempe Police Department press release.

At the UA, the University of Arizona Police Department, the Dean of Students Office, Residence Life and Campus Health Service work in tandem to ensure they are addressing student safety and health issues, according to Kendal Washington White, interim dean of students. These groups stay in communication and discuss issues and trends in student health and safety issues.

There are a variety of safety programs in place, including UAPD presentations to incoming students regarding safety and the student assistance program run through the Dean of Students Office.

“I appreciate the regents’ concern about student safety, but I can definitely say the University of Arizona has significant programs and resources in place for students who are having any difficulties or are experiencing any crisis,” White said. “I would hope that if the task force comes together, perhaps I think one of the benefits could be that we all learn what everyone else is doing.”

There is a student safety discussion planned for the Sept. 26 board of regents’ meeting, where the board will hear “a summary of the key activities, campaigns and community outreach programs” run through the three state universities, according to a press release.

Administrators said they are interested in learning from universities across the state.

“I think we are always open to sharing what we do well with other institutions, but also learning from other people’s experiences,” said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs. “I am certain that if we are working together across the system, we can learn something from someone else in another role or at another institution.”

- Follow Brittny Mejia @BrittnyAriel


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