The University of Arizona

UA Student Safety Task Force Set to Give Recommendations to ABOR

By Amanda Ballard, University Relations - Communications | June 18, 2014
Earlier this year, ABOR formed the Arizona Public Universities' Statewide Task Force on Student Safety with the goal of promoting student safety on and off campus. (Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz)
Earlier this year, ABOR formed the Arizona Public Universities' Statewide Task Force on Student Safety with the goal of promoting student safety on and off campus. (Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz)

From getting across campus to studying abroad, student well-being is the No. 1 priority of the UA's Student Safety Task Force.

Melissa Vito, senior vice president for student affairs and enrollment management and vice provost for academic initiatives and student success, chairs the UA's Student Safety Task Force.
Melissa Vito, senior vice president for student affairs and enrollment management and vice provost for academic initiatives and student success, chairs the UA's Student Safety Task Force.
On campus, the UA Police Department plays a critical role in student safety.
On campus, the UA Police Department plays a critical role in student safety.

The University of Arizona's Student Safety Task Force is finalizing its recommendations and goals for the coming academic year and will present them to the Arizona Board of Regents next month.

Earlier this year, ABOR formed the Arizona Public Universities' Statewide Task Force on Student Safety with the goal of promoting student safety on and off campus. The initiative follows ABOR's charge last year for each university to form local task forces to address issues at each individual campus.

"In Arizona, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure that when a student chooses one of our three great public universities they will be in a safe environment so that they can grow and prosper, academically and personally," said Kaitlin Thompson, ABOR's assistant treasurer and student regent. "Student well-being is essential to student success. You can't really have one without the other."

Melissa Vito, senior vice president for student affairs and enrollment management and vice provost for academic initiatives and student success, chairs the UA's Student Safety Task Force. Vito also chairs the UA Campus Emergency Response Team. She shared the UA's initial recommendations (PDF) in a presentation to ABOR on Monday.

The UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University task forces will present formal reports to ABOR on July 1 regarding the state of safety promotion at each university and goals for the future.

"Safety is the No. 1 concern parents have when their sons or daughters are coming here," Vito said. "We always want to promote safety, health and risk reduction."

The UA's report, which is still being finalized, states that 87 percent of students feel satisfied with safety measures in place on campus, according to the results from a safety survey issued in 2009 by the UA Dean of Students Office.

A common concern for universities nationwide is alcohol abuse among students. According to the 2013 UA Campus Health Survey, the average number of drinks consumed per week among all UA students has decreased from 7.6 in 2002 to an all-time low of 4.2 drinks in 2013 – a decline of 45 percent.

The UA has several safety programs that have received national recognition and are being used as models in other institutions.

For example, since 2005 all incoming UA freshmen complete the online "e-Check Up to Go" alcohol prevention program. The UA-developed "Red Cup" column, a Q-and-A article written by Campus Health Service that regularly appears in the Arizona Daily Wildcat newspaper, is another successful outreach effort. It received a 2011 HEMMY Award from the Arizona Public Health Association.

Other topics covered in the UA's report include the Sun Link streetcar, which begins running July 25, as a potential student safety issue, as well as a wide spectrum of other topics, such as sexual assault prevention and international travel. One goal for the coming year, according to the report, is to increase communication to students, parents and campus community members to promote safety.

Vito said that although there is plenty of communication happening within the UA community, messages could be better aligned.

"We're going to try to have a more coordinated communication plan that's built on central messaging and central themes ... to do it in a way where we're not just peppering people with information," she said.

On campus, the UA Police Department also plays a critical role in student safety, which it helps promote through a variety of student and community outreach programs.

One example are "Ask a Cop" events in which UAPD officers answer questions from the public and provide suggestions on making smart decisions regarding safety and security. UAPD also participates in a liaison program with UA residence halls and works with student clubs and organizations to put on hundreds of events every year.

"We are here because of the students," said Brian Seastone, UAPD chief of police. The UA needs to have "a well-defined security plan, that is progressive in dealing with current issues."

Vito's presentation to ABOR outlined the idea of a "Good Samaritan" policy that would give more leniency to students who are trying to protect other students' safety when there is alcohol involved. Vito said the idea is still being explored, and that NAU is considering a similar initiative. In the meantime, the UA Misdemeanor Diversion Program gives law enforcement the option of deferring UA students to the Office of the Dean of Students for select misdemeanor charges. Students who participate can have the charges dismissed if they complete a program related to the charge, such as an alcohol abuse prevention program for an alcohol violation or a community service program for theft.

"Safety is fundamental to any type of success on campus," Vito said. "It's important. It's our responsibility."

An overview of campus safety programs and resources at the UA is available here.