Advancing safety at UW, in the community and beyond – University of Washington
September 27, 2022
The UW is taking a holistic approach to campus emergency preparedness and safety by reorganizing SafeCampus, UW Emergency Management and the UW Police Department in Seattle into a new Campus & Community Safety division.University of Washington
As the academic year gets underway, the University of Washington’s public campuses are again bustling and busy with students, faculty, staff and visitors. While the focus is on academics, research, learning and building community, on any given day, there may be safety challenges and individuals who feel unsafe for any number of reasons.
Some of the systemic problems within the very institutions ostensibly designed to keep people safe were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and further thrust into the spotlight by 2020’s mass protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
More than two years later, faculty, staff and students continue to come together to reenvision how the UW can best build and maintain a safe community — including addressing racism and bringing about long-term change.
Against this backdrop, UW President Ana Mari Cauce launched a long-term effort to reimagine safety across the university. Starting Sept. 28, the university’s key safety programs — SafeCampus, UW Emergency Management and the UW Police Department (Seattle campus) — will operate through a single division for better coordination, responsiveness and leadership accountability.
A community of the UW’s size and complexity — three campuses in Washington and numerous medical facilities, all with public and private spaces including classrooms, research labs and residences, and all in an earthquake- and flood-prone region — requires a range of personal and facility safety services.
Interim Vice President for Campus & Community Safety Sally ClarkUniversity of Washington
Critically, a holistic approach to safety and preparedness must be responsive to different service needs across the whole of the UW — like crime prevention, crisis response, personal resiliency plans and innovation in unarmed interventions — as well as to the different experiences, including negative, that some people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have had with police.
To bring this initial reimagining and reorganizing work to life, President Cauce asked Sally Clark to serve as the Interim Vice President for Campus & Community Safety. Clark, a former Seattle City Council member, is the Director of Regional & Community Relations, and has decades of experience addressing complex issues by bringing together a diverse range of constituents. UW News sat down with Clark to talk about how campus leaders are prioritizing this work. The below conversation has been edited for clarity.
What does advancing safety across the UW mean?
Sally Clark: We know that people thrive when they feel safe, and that includes feeling they belong. From there, they can be the best student, researcher, staff person, professor or medical professional. Creating that community of safety starts with emergency preparedness, creating safe spaces, doing our best to work upstream to prevent issues, and deploying the most appropriate response to people in crisis or crime victims.
The work of the new Campus & Community Safety division is to think holistically about everything, including earthquakes and natural disaster preparedness, violence prevention and personal safety plans, mental health support, maintaining safety during games at Husky Stadium and more — all while trying to respond to each incident in a way that respects individuals and communities.
We know we have work to do to undo systemic oppression and create a sense of belonging for all people at the UW. That means we’re engaged in both listening and speaking with a number of student, staff and faculty groups, as well as working with communities around the UW to ensure all people are given respect, and ultimately, we achieve the goal of community safety.
How to get help:
UW resources to help if you’re in crisis or experiencing an emergency:
Dial 911 for emergencies or to report a crime.
Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 if you or someone you know needs support.
The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available by texting or calling 988.
When someone on a campus needs emergency help — if they are experiencing a crisis, medical need, or have been a crime victim — how do they summon help and who will respond?
SC: This depends on the circumstances. If someone feels like they’re threatened or if they’re injured or otherwise need urgent medical attention, I encourage calling 911. Still, I know there are some people in the UW community who — for good reason — don’t feel like that’s the safest call because of their own past experiences or history. On the Seattle campus, that emergency call will result in a UWPD officer being dispatched. UWPD’s team is made up of officers who are drawn to the campus community and trained to work with students, faculty and staff. For the Tacoma and Bothell campuses, safety and security officers work hard to offer help in a variety of situations. For those campuses, a crime-related 911 call will mean dispatch of a Tacoma or Bothell police officer.
If you’re concerned about your safety or maybe the safety of someone else — you’ve received verbal or online threats, or you notice concerning behavior in a friend or colleague — then SafeCampus is your best call. That’s true of wherever you are as a student, staff person or faculty member. The SafeCampus staff is trained to listen and help you with guidance and safety plans. Their website includes links and numbers for resources available day and night.
Finally, the stresses of the world, the pandemic, being a student, caring for family, juggling work, can all add up. For students, the UW Seattle’s Counseling Center provides support, as do UW Bothell’s Counseling Center and UW Tacoma’s Psychological & Wellness Services. For benefits-eligible faculty and staff at any UW campus or facility, UW CareLink provides skilled ongoing support.
Around the U.S., people of color have experienced disproportionately negative, sometimes violent, responses from uniformed police officers. What is the UW doing to make certain that everyone on campus, especially students, faculty and staff of color, can be confident in being treated fairly and with respect?
SC: The UW’s Race & Equity Initiative was launched in 2015, prior to the summer of 2020, and has only grown in importance. All of us must be part of the ongoing work to ensure that UW’s mission — to preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge — can be fulfilled through all who study, work and visit. Not some, but all. That means we need to look critically at ourselves and past practice in order to be a better, ever more welcoming community that values belonging. This includes policing. I know the new chief of the Seattle campus police force, Craig Wilson, is dedicated to supporting officers in being the best public servants they can be as part of supporting the mission.
Reimagining campus community safety won’t be accomplished by one project or initiative. We need to work with urgency in a long game of continuous reflection and improvement. The new Campus & Community Safety division’s goal will be to instigate, inspire and support ongoing reimagining efforts that make people safer, feel safer and feel like they belong.
What is the UW doing to ensure safety in the neighboring communities, such as the U District?
SC: The UW is taking a number of steps to work with partners in the community to improve safety and reduce crime. Overall, Seattle and other urban centers have seen a stunning increase in personal and property crimes since the start of the pandemic, and the U District hasn’t been immune. There are several leading reasons for this having to do with the terrible intersection of poverty, addiction and crime.
The UW invests in the U District Partnership, which employs teams of Safety Ambassadors in the U District, as well as an outreach worker for unhoused people in crisis. Overall, UDP does an amazing job creating spaces that feel and are safe through cleaning up sidewalks and graffiti; drawing people out to events like the U District $4 Food Walk and Street Party; and supporting small businesses that are the life force of the U District.
Sometimes, a uniformed officer is what’s needed for a situation. Both UWPD and the Seattle Police Department have been terrific partners in responding when needed.
You’ve talked a lot about safety in Seattle; what’s being done to address these same issues at UW Bothell and UW Tacoma?
SC: Both UWB and UWT have chancellors, students, faculty and staff who are deeply engaged in discussions about what makes their campus communities safer. The concerns among all three campuses and in UW Medicine facilities aren’t radically different, but the campus conditions are a little different.
The new division will support work across the whole of UW to set standards and expectations for preparedness, training and accountability as we strive for safety, support and belonging across the system, whether you’re in Seattle, Bothell, Tacoma, Friday Harbor or Rome.
What can students, faculty and staff do to help keep all UW spaces safe and prepared?
SC: Each of us has a role to play. It’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings. If you feel unsafe, reach out to either SafeCampus or call 911. There are so many great trainings available for recognizing bias and being a good ally. If we come together and look out for one another, we stay safe and build community.
For more information, contact Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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