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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Bob Jones University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Bob Jones University

The Collegian

Pettit affirms BJU’s commitment to safety

DPS officers David Beckwith, Harry Miller, James Rulapaugh and Ryan Kiehl use bike partol to engage campus in a new and personal way. Photo: Rebecca Snyder

In an ongoing effort to protect campus, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has implemented a new bike patrol this semester. Student officers are now able to choose between patrolling campus in a car or on a bike.

According to Commander David Champ, assistant  chief of DPS, the new bike patrol, in some cases, can decrease emergency response time and establishes a presence all across campus, not just on the roads.

The bike patrol is just one way DPS is striving to meet the security needs of the modern world.

The safety of college campuses has drawn national attention since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. Universities around the country found themselves reexamining their own safety in the horrible aftermath.

This semester, President Steve Pettit affirmed Bob Jones University’s own commitment to campus safety.

In a statement from the chapel platform of Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium, on Sept. 5, Pettit said the University is committed to protecting students from harm and to protecting their property.

Each year federal law (the Clery Act) mandates BJU self-report campus crimes under a variety of categories such as motor vehicle theft, robbery and forcible sex offenses. The University publishes these statistics yearly on the BJU website.

Since BJU began reporting campus statistics after students became eligible to receive federal financial aid, the University has reported a lower number of campus crimes than similar state and private universities.

David Champ, the assistant chief of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), said he believes BJU’s campus is incredibly safe based on these statistics as well as his personal experience.

However, Champ warned against naïveté in assuming there is no need for caution.

Similarly, David Beckwith, a DPS sergeant, described a misconception he said many people on campus believe.

“[BJU] is a relatively safe campus,” Beckwith said. “But a lot of people’s thinking is there’s this dome around [BJU’s] campus, and that [dome] keeps all the evil things out. There’s no dome.”

Champ said DPS has been using community policing to create relationships and establish a visible presence on campus.

He described community policing as a philosophy of security that uses relationship building, awareness and community partnership to proactively counteract crime.

“We’ve been doing [community policing],” Champ said. “We’ve been putting our presence out there so people know . . . we’re here to try to assist and do what we can to make it a great experience yet safe experience.”

Between 2013 and 2015, every reported burglary that occurred on campus occurred in the residence halls, according to the Clery report.

The residence halls require ID card access to enter, but individual rooms have no locks.

Last academic year, the Office of Planning, Research and Assessment researched the costs and advantages of installing locks on the residence hall rooms.

The administration is currenlty reviewing the research findings, and discussions to implement the residence hall locks are ongoing.

Beckwith said he handles some of the burglary reports for allegedly stolen items in the residence halls.

He says the frequency of reports  increases when there are additional people on campus for competitions.

Harry Miller, a DPS sergeant, said he believes installing the locks  would dramatically change the communal nature of the residence halls.

“The obvious theoretical answer is yes, [installing locks would cut down crime] because when doors are locked people can’t get in,” Miller said. “But that’s making the assumption the doors would be locked when they were supposed to be.”

Dr. Eric Newton, dean of students, was one of many administrative persons consulted about the potential effectiveness of residence hall door locks.

“Fitting all room doors with locks would enhance a sense of security,” Newton said.

“Whether locks would actually diminish theft depends on a variety of factors, such as whether or not residents kept their doors locked. Another consideration is what effects locks might have on the trust and community that develops within the residence halls.”

Classroom doors across campus have locks that can only be locked by a key.

According to Beckwith, this feature poses a potential danger in the event of an active shooter situation because professors would be unable to secure their classrooms if they had not brought their keys to class.

Beckwith described the importance of securing the classroom doors in the event of a school shooting.

“Mass shooters have a very limited amount of time to carry out their mission,” Beckwith said. “So [if a room is locked], they move on to the next one.”

Champ said because DPS is aware the doors require a key to lock, the faculty are regularly reminded to bring their keys to class.

He said DPS has taken part in active shooter situation training in Columbia along with agencies from around the state.

Carol Keirstead, BJU’s chief communications officer, said the University has a detailed emergency response manual describing the appropriate response to an active shooter situation as well as other emergency situations.

She said crisis procedures are available to faculty and staff on the intranet. She also advised students to attend an upcoming seminar on active shooter situations hosted by DPS. Details on the seminars are yet to be announced.

While many universities label their security as campus police, BJU uses the term public safety, which leads to some misunderstandings.

One common misconception is thinking that DPS does not have the same capabilities as a campus police department on other university campuses.

Champ said this idea is ill-informed because DPS has the same authority on BJU property as official police, including arrest powers.

Champ also said DPS employs three police officers to protect campus but will be adding another officer in January.

“[These three officers] are university campus police and have law enforcement authority on all real property owned by the University and all roads contiguous with the property,” Champ said. 

“These officers attended and graduated from the SC Law Enforcement Academy.”

Currently, DPS has 10 uniformed staff officers, including two GAs, as well as 51 student workers.

DPS representatives meet monthly with local city and county law enforcement to discuss safety-related issues. Champ said  local law enforcement officials have reviewed the campus’s security and facilities.

As required by law, the University now requires all students, faculty and staff participate in Title IX training each year.

Part of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to Newton, Title IX has addressed gender discrimination on college campuses but became particularly focused on sexual assault and harassment after the 2011 events at Penn State University involving Jerry Sandusky.   

The University named Dr. Michael Miller, a lawyer and executive assistant to Dr. Gary Weier, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, as the Title IX coordinator in 2013.

He now oversees all implementation of Title IX federal regulations, including advising students who wish to file a Title IX report.

Pettit promised the campus community in his Sept. 5 address that the University will fulfill federal requirements and appropriately handle all Title IX complaints.

“Any allegations we receive will go through a prompt, fair and thorough process of investigation,” Pettit said.

Newton said his Student Life staff sometimes function as an unofficial bridge from students to the Title IX coordinator and DPS because many students may not feel comfortable sharing allegations with officials but would with an RA or residence hall mentor.

Newton said Student Life personnel including RAs and residence hall mentors receive extensive training from the Title IX coordinator as well as safety and legal training from the DPS Chief.

Both Newton and Champ said Student Life officials receive the training they need to fulfill the requirements of their jobs.

Champ encouraged students to call DPS to ask questions involving campus security.

DPS can be reached by calling (864) 242-5100 ext. 5900.

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Pettit affirms BJU’s commitment to safety