Task force meets to discuss student safety at the UA
Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, participates in the UA Student Safety Task Force held in Gallagher Theater on Wednesday. The meeting was designed to get public feedback from students and parents and was live broadcast for viewers across the state to email in questions for the board.
The UA Student Safety Task Force held a public meeting Wednesday to hear questions and concerns regarding student safety.
The audience, which included members of the task force and the UA community in addition to students, were invited to share any thoughts or questions they had about student safety issues.
The meeting was led by Melissa M. Vito, the senior vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, Kaitlin Thompson, a student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, Brian Seastone, the Chief of Police for the University of Arizona Police Department, and Kendal Washington White, dean of students and the assistant vice president for student affairs. The task force itself includes representatives from many different groups, including community members, UAPD and Tuscon Police Department members and UA Residence Life members.
The task force is going to consider all of the information it has gathered and eventually create a report to be submitted to the Board of Regents, Vito said.
A few issues were brought to the attention of the task force. One member brought up the general safety of bikers and pedestrians on campus. As college campuses are very densely populated areas, the member questioned what was being done to protect pedestrians and bikers.
Dean Saxton, a religious studies senior known by many as Brother Dean, was mentioned by another member of the audience. She said she feels personally attacked when she walks by him and he is yelling. She wondered what could be done to prevent him from shouting at students who are walking to class.
This issue, however, was immediately addressed by White.
“The thing about the First Amendment and free speech is that when we like it, we love the First Amendment,” White said, “but when we don’t like what people are saying, then it becomes problematic.”
Parameters have been set for the UA Mall preachers but they are unable to stop them because the speech is protected, White added.
The UA Student Safety Task Force, which is one branch of a larger task force for students across the entire state of Arizona, was created last fall by the Board of Regents in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of safety issues, Thompson said. Each university in Arizona has a separate task force which then reports back to the overarching statewide task force.
“We really wanted to have a data-driven, solutions-focused conversation across the state and identify the best practices,” Thompson said. “One of the coolest things to me is to see each of these task forces do their work. The coolest thing is when we see the data is seeing the areas where that institution is a leader.”
The next step after this meeting, according to Vito, is to see how the information gathered at the meeting fits with what the task force has already been looking at. Members will then begin to determine what they do well and where there might be some gaps.
“We worry about things when an incident comes up, a student death or injuries or student is transported to hospital. … All those things make us stop and think what can we do differently and how can we address it,” Vito said.
—Follow news reporter Jordan Fowler on Twitter @JordanFowler7