On Oct. 25, Student Body President McKenzy Heavlin signed Executive Order No. 03, Establishment of the Student Body Select Department on University Police Relations and Student Input, which established a committee of students that will liaison with University Police in order to better communicate student concerns with safety issues on campus.
According to Heavlin, a fourth-year studying electrical engineering, the student committee will meet regularly with University Police and the Emergency Management and Mission Continuity.
“In my role as president, I liaison with them frequently if anything were to happen and I need information, or if I’m getting asked questions from students about it,” Heavlin said. “It’s making sure that there are more students involved in that process of understanding their relationship with our community, but it’s also making sure that they are getting input from students pretty directly, not just through the student body president, but also through other channels.”
The committee includes a group of 13 members total, from a variety of colleges and years, all with different views and experiences. According to Timothy Reid, a second-year studying business administration and chair of the committee, this diverse representation on the committee will further the committee’s ability to benefit all students.
“I think this will help in furthering the aims and the mission of the commission itself, bringing students from all over campus, so we’re more better informed and we can spread word to all parts of campus as to what UPD is doing to address our concerns and work with us,” Reid said.
According to Heavlin, this committee was created in response to these unprecedented times, including the aftermath of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
“This was also something that Chief House had discussed with me over the summer, and so it seemed like the right time to implement things,” Heavlin said. “Especially as we are shifting out of COVID into a new time period, I think it was a critical time to get it up and off the ground. Anything we can do to be proactive in our relationship with UPD, when we need to ask them to change they will be more open to it.”
State and federal laws limit the amount of information University Police can share with students, however, Heavlin is hopeful that there will be an opportunity to address how the department is communicating with the students and community.
“I think that is going to be one of the first conversations: the full legality of what this group can know and what all I can know,” Heavlin said. “However, I think there will be an opportunity to address how some of the things are done on campus, because it’s a lot of the small stuff that is a big deal to students, [in] an emergency or crisis, [University Police] may not be 100% thinking through in terms of communication because it’s rapidly developing. It’s one of the things of trying to think through what their process would be for certain things, and how the decisions are being made, and how we can actively provide them with feedback.”
According to Reid, University Police was very cooperative during the process of establishing the committee and wants to see the same improvements and changes in communication as the students.
“We got to meet with Chief House last week, and it was very productive in laying the groundwork for what the committee will be able to work on and accomplish ultimately,” Reid said. “It seems like everything is in a fluster with Wolf Alerts and safety threats it seems we are getting, so I feel that a lot of students feel disconnected. If UPD can get a feel for what our main concerns are, specifically being able to tell them how we’d like to see it addressed, we can do a much better job of avoiding those problems in the future.”
According to Heavlin, the scope of the committee isn’t specified in the executive order so the committee can be flexible and more easily assist students in addressing concerns.
“If you have concerns with emergency management, you can come to the committee and talk to us and we will do our best to facilitate those conversations with UPD,” Heavlin said. “[The committee] is in student government, but it is very much for the students so I encourage students to reach out and utilize the group.”