During the fall semester of 2021, several safety incidents left Providence College students both on and off-campus feeling unsafe and anxious. Looking back over the semester, a stand-out moment was on Oct. 5 when the 72nd Student Congress held an open forum with the Office of Public Safety where 350 students gathered and shared personal and general concerns surrounding safety on and off-campus. A day later, on Oct. 6, Public Safety sent a follow-up email to the PC community which outlined ways in which they planned to remedy safety issues. Now, two months later and at the close of the semester, The Cowl followed up with Interim Public Safety Chief, Eric Croce, to address some lingering questions among students.
The conversation first addressed those concrete elements laid out in the Oct. 6 email.
Early October saw the establishment of the Safety and Security Task Force, a coordinated effort, including faculty, staff, Providence police, and most importantly students, to maintain updated safety measures and improve communication with students. Chief Croce says that the task force has been successful in “evaluating the charge” and identifying the “areas that need to be looked into.” The task force has met several times this semester and plans to continue its work into the spring.
The Oct. 6 email detailed day-to-day programs pertaining to safety, such as Friar Nite Ride, self-defense classes, and officers assigned to each dorm. In his interview with The Cowl, Chief Croce wished to reiterate that these are not new programs, but rather practices that were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As far as the success of the return of Friar Nite Ride and self-defense classes, Croce believes they are, “working well and are well-received.” What is most important, he continues, is that they are “available for those who want them.” He also notes that the late-night shuttle will be beneficial for safety during inclement winter weather.
Chief Croce plans that for the spring semester photographs of the assigned public safety officers will be displayed in the lobby of each hall, and officers will establish an even stronger relationship with hall directors and resident assistants. Students should feel comfortable approaching and seeking help from the officer who is there to do just that, according to Chief Croce.
Throughout the month of November, it was difficult for PC students not to notice the increase in testing of blue light towers all over campus. Many students wondered why so many of them were being tested at once. Blue light towers provided 24-hour communication with public safety and were used in the case of crime or medical emergency. According to Chief Croce, the towers underwent a series of routine maintenance testing in November and it was discovered that some required repairs and updates. He says, “It is incredibly important to the Office of Public Safety that these towers are operational at all times.”
The safety of on-campus students is just as important as those living off-campus. The Office of Public Safety works closely with the 02908 Club and Operations Manager Shannon Russell. The 02908 Club has hired private security and the Office of Public Safety is in weekly correspondence with the property owners. Chief Croce describes them as “very attentive” and maintains “strong communication” with them. When asked about advice for off-campus students, he reiterates the basics, “secure your doors and windows, lock your car, take out your AC units.”
When asked about general advice for all PC students, Chief Croce highlights three important factors that he believes will greatly reduce incidents. He identifies that most incidents occur in the late night or the early morning so at these times he advises students to not drink excessively, to travel in groups, and to be overly conscious of their surroundings.
College is a uniquely celebrated experience in one’s life, and fear for one’s person or belongings can drastically impact that experience.