The Student Government Association (SGA) and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) sponsored a forum on Sunday in Kennedy Union Torch Lounge for students to ask UD’s administration questions about campus safety. Its purpose was to bridge the gap between students and administration.
President Eric Spina, Campus Police Chief Rodney Chatman, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Christine Schramm, Vice President for Student Development William Fischer, SGA President Bryan Borodkin and SAAC President Dani Ruffolo were the panelists.
Students asked about matters such as safety on campus and surrounding areas, the changing culture of the school, police and student relations and policies regarding noise, alcohol and large crowds.
Some brought up their discomfort by how St. Patrick’s Day 2018 was handled with police in riot gear and Spina’s email stating his disappointment in the student body.
Spina responded by saying he has no intention of taking away students’ fun or alcohol. However, he does want to stop high-risk behavior that comes as a result of drinking.
“I think the student neighborhood is one of the university’s greatest assets, and also is a place where we have the greatest amount of risk at the institution,” he said. “I assure you we are not trying to take away people’s ability to legally drink, to have fun, to have parties in a responsible way.”
Spina also mentioned the full-week spring break in 2019 that falls over March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day 2019) is not a direct result of St. Patrick’s Day 2018. The possibility of a full-week spring break had been discussed for several years.
Another topic of discussion was students’ concern about safety on campus and in nearby neighborhoods.
Chatman confirmed there has been an increase in police presence on campus this year. This is in response to the rise in crowds drinking in the streets on Saturdays, vandalism and sexual assault.
Officers are not assigned to blocks in the student neighborhood. The number on duty varies, sometimes there are six to seven officers on duty, and other times there are three to four.
Along with the increase in police enforcement, there has been a tightening of drinking policies. The panel said the revised policies started to be enforced as early as 2013. It has been an ongoing issue that high-risk drinking behaviors are a security threat to students. Administration is concerned about large crowds that result in the destruction of property and hospital visits.
One student brought up the confusion about what constitutes an open container of alcohol. Chatman clarified, stating any container with a broken seal containing alcohol counts as an open container. For example, a water bottle with alcohol in it would be an infraction. He encouraged students of age to finish their drink in a legal place, such as a house, and not to transport an open seal of any kind.
Chatman asked attendees to give feedback about Public Safety, negative or positive, and encouraged students to follow his social media for updates. Officers do want students to be more comfortable reporting any issue that arises.
UD Police also implemented two new positions this year titled Community Engagement Officers to break the barrier between police officers and students.
Moving forward, students and police hope to build a stronger sense of community. For students who attended the panel, this means police need to explain their actions and enforce policies openly and fairly. For police, this means students need to comply with officers and reach out when a concern arises.
The livestream of the forum can be seen on the UD SGA’s Facebook page.