Dickinson will invite students back for the spring. Campus buildings are closed and face coverings are required on campus.
by Tony Moore
Over the summer—prompted by a shift in the national conversation about policing—the Black Student Union (BSU) presented the college with several concerns related to potential negative interactions with armed police officers on campus or in the community. Although there have been no reported cases alleging excessive use of force by Dickinson’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), the concerns were based on some students’ previous experiences.
After multiple conversations between students—including from the BSU, the Women of Color Summit and the Latin American & Caribbean Club—and the administration, the redesigned Public Safety Board emerged, comprising Dickinson students, DPS officers and a liaison from the Carlisle Police Department.
“The committee will be focused on creating a clear avenue of constant communication between DPS and the student body,” says BSU president Keshawn Bostic ’21. “While DPS is a police force, their community is made up mostly of college students, and it’s important for communication to be clear, honest and consistent to make sure everyone feels safe on campus.”
Replacing the DPS Advisory Board—a body that had existed for a decade at Dickinson—the board will meet regularly and address new and ongoing concerns of the student body, ensuring that student voices are heard and prioritized. And members have found that through seeking common ground, answers to lingering questions were more addressable.
“It has been a great experience working with the students,” says Dee Danser, assistant vice president of compliance & chief of public safety. “Together, we have been able to work on some changes and solutions that I believe will better serve the students and the rest of the Dickinson community while improving relationships with Public Safety.”
While initially students were pushing to disarm DPS officers, the committee reached an understanding that doing so could create an additional liability for the campus community. Instead, the college will move to a hybrid safety model by either adding unarmed security personnel or creating a student safety patrol. These units could respond to less urgent calls, for which an armed officer’s presence wouldn’t be necessary.
As of now, board members are slated to be elected using the Student Senate election platform, although the committee will operate independently from Student Senate. The board hopes that by making selection an open process, more student input will find its way to the meetings for discussion. During each monthly meeting, Dickinson community members will have an opportunity to review and discuss incidents that may have occurred the previous month, providing needed transparency in the operations of DPS and their interactions with students.
“Positive relationships with students are necessary for the campus community to thrive,” says Danser. “Safety and security must be a collaborative venture, and we are committed to fostering better relationships between students and officers. Working openly and transparently also and adds a layer of accountability.”
Published January 14, 2021