Dear Carolina Community,
Last spring, after a series of disturbing public safety incidents on campus, I wrote to you promising to take action to learn from these events and foster an inclusive culture in which all members of our community feel like they are safe and belong. Much has taken place during the past six months, and I write to update you on our efforts.
First, in March, I commissioned an independent, external review of how the University handled four incidents, and that work is now complete. While the review concludes that “the motivations of officers involved were not improper,” it also notes several areas in which there were “breakdowns in police procedures and practices.” Conducted by Charlotte attorney Chris Swecker, the former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who also led a campus safety assessment last fall, the review makes 16 recommendations about how to enhance our policies and procedures moving forward. All recommendations will be carefully reviewed, and some have already been implemented.
I thank Mr. Swecker for his thorough and methodological approach, and I am confident that his review will lead us to a better place. I would also like to thank the members of our University Police force, who are committed to providing the campus community with a safe environment that enables us to fulfil our core mission of teaching, learning, research and service.
While this important assessment was underway, we also launched several critical initiatives:
- The Campus Safety Commission that I convened last spring has met monthly since May and since September has conducted several listening sessions with a wide variety of community members. In the coming weeks, commission members, led by chairs Manny Hernandez, former president of the graduate and professional student federation; Frank Baumgartner, Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science, College of Arts & Sciences; and DeVetta Holman Nash, resiliency and student support programs coordinator in the Office of Student Wellness, will complete a report summarizing common themes heard in these sessions, as well as recommended action steps to improve public safety and the campus climate. In January, we will host a campus-wide town hall meeting to share the Commission’s report and announce additional new initiatives to enhance public safety. If you haven’t participated in a listening session, I encourage you to attend the town hall.
- Assistant Vice Chancellor and UNC Police Chief David Perry, who began work in September, and brings 25 years of distinguished service in law enforcement, is already making a difference on campus. We are accelerating our plans to expand security cameras on campus and enhance lighting in key pedestrian corridors. Chief Perry has brought a new focus on community policing that is helping rebuild trust among law enforcement and members of our campus. Early feedback has been extremely positive. Later this month, Chief Perry and members of his team will travel to the national conference for law enforcement accreditation to receive re-accreditation status for updated policies and procedures, many of which were recommended for improvement in the independent review. Additionally, the UNC Police Department Communications Center will receive initial accreditation status at the conference making it the only accredited university communications center in the state.
- In October, I announced a new vice chancellor of institutional integrity and risk management. George E. Battle III will join us in January 2020 to take a comprehensive, strategic look at campus safety policies and procedures and will be responsible for implementing the recommendations of both the Campus Safety Commission and the Swecker independent review. George will also work closely with the University’s Clery office to address specific areas surfaced in the recent AAU Climate Survey.
Carolina has a history of navigating tough issues together, and over the past six months, we have made significant progress in the realm of public safety. We must nurture an environment where all members of our community can live, learn and work without fear. Our work is ongoing, and I will continue to keep you informed of our progress.
In the meantime, I would like to thank all students, faculty, and staff who have taken the time to share their thoughts and ideas on this important topic with me, the Campus Safety Commission, or at the listening and learning sessions. It is evident that there are many in our community who care deeply about this topic, and your broad participation will make us all better.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz