The registrar can be a critical part of campus safety efforts. Michael Hutley, registrar at Santa Fe College in Florida, is a member of a campus threat assessment team that won the NASPA Campus Safety Knowledge Community Award for Best Practice in Prevention Activities.
He’s a strong advocate for the registrar being a part of an institution’s threat assessment team. Many discussions about students in team meetings turn to the student record, and who is better able to speak about that than the registrar?
At Santa Fe, officials wanted a team that could make things happen in real time. “To have a team where the decision-makers are not in the room is not a good situation,” Hutley said. If a student or other individual poses a threat to the campus community, the situation needs to be acted upon right then, he added.
Santa Fe’s police chief chairs the team. Besides Hutley, it includes the general counsel, vice president of student affairs, associate vice president of student affairs, a lieutenant in the police department, representatives from two academic departments, the director of human resources, the coordinator of the counseling center, and the director of the advising center who oversees counseling.
The team meets weekly for an hour and a half, and if a high-priority situation arises, they meet immediately.
Anyone on campus can report individuals or situations that they think pose threats through the college’s Safe Santa Fe portal. Individuals who report threats can choose to do so anonymously. Team members review those reports and determine what action to take.
Each member of the team has a particular role. For example, Hutley reviews the student’s academic history. He notes whether the student is currently enrolled, whether he has flags, and whether there is any information in the system the team should be concerned about. Another member of the team is responsible for checking social media. The department chairs speak to colleagues in the department if that seems appropriate. And the police officers conduct background checks.
All notes about an individual are kept in an online system so that everyone on the team can see what has been done. Each member of the team is notified when something is added to the system.
During team meetings, Hutley can take immediate actions the team decides on. For example, he can move a student’s record from active to history on the spot. And he can notate the record so that the individual can’t access the system or even apply to the college.
Interim suspensions can be enacted on the spot. And because SFC has a sworn police force, the team can decide to put a trespassing notice out about the individual. When that happens, a message comes up on the student’s record in the enterprise resource planning system. If staff members see that message when a student visits their office, they are instructed to call campus police. And the individual is added to the trespass gallery on Santa Fe’s website (http://www.sfcollege.edu/pd/?section=trespass_gallery).
A threat assessment team like Santa Fe’s doesn’t work without a lot of collaboration. “My goal is to be at the table,” Hutley said.
Comprehensive efforts promote campus safety
From 2012 to 2013, crimes at SFC reported under the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program dropped 38 percent. And the decline was at least that much from 2013 to 2014.
Multiple efforts led to the overall campus safety. For example, Santa Fe officials developed an initiative called Safe Santa Fe. The police department works with divisions across campus to improve safety. The branding for safety efforts is important, Police Chief Ed Book said. When members of the campus community see the Safe Santa Fe brand, they think about safety and act in ways that create a safer community.
“Safe Santa Fe is all about crime prevention,” Book said. The goal is for people to be aware of what’s happening around them. Officials want them to recognize risk factors so that they protect themselves and their property.
Besides encouraging members of the community to be aware of crime risks, Safe Santa Fe aims to create an environment that deters crime. When criminals see that people are walking safely and that doors are locked, they perceive less opportunity to commit crimes. And when they see a clean area with a well-manicured landscape, where people are friendly and professional, that environment is a deterrent, Book said.
A program called Front Line Safety/Front Line Service is also part of the comprehensive safety efforts. “Service is an important part of safety,” Book said. The program trains staff members to prevent situations from escalating and to address problems safely.
Hutley’s staff members participated in the training last fall. It will be offered annually.
It gave the staff members confidence to deal effectively with unhappy students, Hutley said. “People don’t come to the Registrar’s Office to hang out and have a good time.” Staff members often have to explain regulations that prevent students from getting what they want. For example, they have to explain the residency requirements that impact how much college costs. Or they might have to explain the policy for retaking a class if the student made a C or better.
The training helped staff members learn to listen for what students really were saying, rather than to the specific words they might be using.
And they learned to recognize the point where it was appropriate to say, “Let me let you speak with …,” rather than trying to deal with the situation themselves.
Topics in the training include:
- The importance of being aware of potential threats in the area.
- How to use verbal de-escalation when an agitated individual does not have a weapon.
- How to listen to what individuals are really saying, which is not always what their words say.
- How to act in an active-shooter situation.
- How to use items you might be carrying in self-defense.
- What to report and how to report it.
- How to have a survivor mindset.
- What to do in case of a bomb threat.
- What to do if you receive a suspicious package or mail.
Learn more about Safe Santa Fe at http://www.sfcollege.edu/safesantafe. Email Michael Hutley at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.