Chapel Hill — The UNC Campus Security Initiative issued a final report today, offering a comprehensive review and recommendations for improving safety and security across the 17-campus University of North Carolina. In a time of growing concern and increasing regulation of safety issues on college campuses, the UNC system has undertaken a detailed, clear-eyed analysis of what UNC campuses do well, what the law requires, and how the University can do better.
Launched last fall by UNC President Tom Ross, the Initiative brought together vice chancellors, law enforcement personnel, counselors, faculty, students, and others from across the UNC system to explore the complex issues surrounding sexual assault and other violent crimes, campus security, and crime reporting. Co-chaired by NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold Martin, Initiative work groups drew on expertise from every level of the UNC system, as well as outside specialists. Taking a uniquely broad look at safety issues, the Initiative sought to identify and better understand what it takes to make UNC campus communities more secure.
Initiative members also coordinated with staff from North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s office on the shared goal of addressing alcohol and substance abuse. Several UNC campuses will continue this work as part of a pilot program that emphasizes prevention and treatment. University representatives will also serve on the Governor's Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force.
Spanning 17 campuses from dorm rooms to board rooms, the UNC Campus Security Initiative offers a model for grappling with increased responsibilities for student, faculty, and staff safety. The Initiative’s 26 findings and 36 recommendations focus on opportunities for greater collaboration and resource-sharing—a way for campuses to meet rising expectations in an era of constrained budgets. By taking a University-wide approach—shared trainings, compliance assistance, and system-wide policies addressing critical issues—UNC can strengthen the good work already underway on each campus.
“This effort is a shining example of effective collaboration,” says Gina Maisto Smith, a nationally recognized expert on campus safety regulation and a partner with Pepper Hamilton, LLP. “This Initiative reflects a holistic approach to campus safety, weaving together the many challenges and issues that impact students and communities. At every level, the Initiative maps out responses that are compliant with the law, consistent with the University’s educational values and informed by the dynamics of interpersonal and sexual violence and their impact on individuals and communities.”
Key recommendations address:
- Adopting a University-wide policy and informed practices to help prevent sexual violence and guarantee professional, compassionate responses when incidents of sexual assault do occur.
- Offering system-level guidance on legal compliance and training.
- Setting standards for disciplinary proceedings on every campus that are clear, prompt, and fair. In cases involving sexual assault and other violent offenses, ensuring student well-being by staffing disciplinary panels with trained and experienced personnel, rather than students.
- Combatting a culture of alcohol abuse that inflicts lasting harm on students, undermines the educational mission of the University, and threatens the safety of campus communities. This is crucial in preventing safety threats and working to end interpersonal violence on campus.
- Acknowledging the increased expectations—and accompanying legal mandates—that campuses face with respect to student safety, and identifying the considerable resources needed to meet them.
“The recommendations are in line with the letter and spirit of the law, and clearly designed to enhance the training and education level of the campus community,” says Steven Healy, managing partner for campus safety specialists Margolis Healy & Associates. “The recommendations are also practical, particularly for a large campus system such as UNC.”
UNC campuses are currently well-protected, and the overall crime rate on every campus is well below the statewide average. This is a credit to the dedication and professionalism of campus officials, and the Initiative’s recommendations seek to build on existing efforts with better coordination, clearer policies, and the best resources available.
“Having spent 17 years on the bench as a superior court judge, I know that we cannot completely insulate our campuses and our students from the violence that is pervasive in our larger society” said UNC President Ross. “I also know first-hand the importance of working to prevent crime and respond to violent threats. It’s not easy, and there is no such thing as absolute safety. But this report gives us a clearer understanding of our responsibilities and what it will take to meet them.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: The following national experts are familiar with the Campus Security Initiative and can provide broader context on the issues it addresses:
Gina Maisto Smith
Pepper Hamilton LLP
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Telephone: 215-981-4000
Gary J. Margolis
Margolis Healy and Associates, LLC