By Sarah Giani ’18
In 2015, the Department of Public Safety at Providence College underwent an assessment by a group of external consultants and a committee of students and staff. This review fostered a number of recommendations for consideration, highlighting what the department was doing well and what could be improved upon. “Most departments—both academic and administrative—are expected to do self studies or external reviews in order to reinforce their commitment of doing better,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Kristine Goodwin.
A committee consisting of faculty members, students, and a College trustee oversaw the external review. Comments and recommendations were also opened beyond the physical campus, as alumni and parents were able to give their feedback online. “We conducted a truly thorough review, compiling pages of recommendations to be assessed,” said Goodwin. In the spirit of continuous improvement, recommendations were taken into consideration to create real change within the department.
One of the major changes that occurred was changing the actual name of the department. “We changed our name from the Department of Safety and Security to the Department of Public Safety based on one of the recommendations from the consultants,” said Major John Leyden, executive director of public safety. “We felt that the old name was outdated, and this new title better encompasses what we do as a department.” The new name emphasizes the department’s work not only on PC’s campus, but their role in overall community safety. “An additional recommendation we received was to hire a campus relations officer,” said Leyden. “We selected Lieutenant Dunbar as our community liaison, in order to focus in on our relationship with the off-campus community.”
Another notable change to the department is that it now falls under the Office of the Executive Vice President. Leyden said this transition is consistent with other colleges and universities across the country, as the majority of campus public safety departments fall under the executive branch of the respective institution. Looking ahead, the Department of Public Safety combined with the oversight committee to focus on ways to keep implementing recommendations they received in their evaluation. “In moving forward, we will be looking at moving towards a hybrid model of public safety,” said Goodwin. “After reviewing all of the feedback we received, it became clear that we needed someone experienced with a hybrid type model in order to fully move from campus safety and security, to public safety.”
At this time, discussion as to what a hybrid model of security would entail is continuous. “We need more than safety and security, but less than a full police force on campus,” said Goodwin. “Where we fall on the continuum is what we need to identify next.” Currently, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Steven Sears, and sociology professor Maureen Outlaw are on the search committee for someone to fill a possible Assistant or Associate Vice President position in the Department of Public Safety. “Once that position is filled, we will make an assessment as to how to proceed.”