For the first time in nine years, crossing guard Willie Tatum isn't standing in front of the Bell Tower as classes change.
Tatum directed traffic across South Road at UNC through a contract with the Raleigh-based company McLaurin Parking and Transportation.
“I loved the culture of the campus, I loved how the students and faculty, especially the students, how respectful they were. They were caring,” Tatum said. “When it was cold out, they would bring me coffee or hot chocolate. When it was hot out, they would bring me ice cold water.”
Tatum resigned from his position after his request for a raise was denied.
“I got a copy of the safety report, and I found out how much the University was giving McLaurin for us to be out there,” Tatum said. “When I saw the paperwork I couldn’t believe how much they’re getting and how much McLaurin is paying us. I was shocked.”
According to the Department of Public Safety’s 2015 annual security report, the University provides funding support of approximately $104,000 for the salaries for crossing guards at the South Road crossings.
“I just wanted them to see the value of what I was doing,” Tatum said.
The University began a contract with McLaurin Parking nine years ago as part of a pedestrian safety initiative to include more crossing guards on South Road.
When asked about Tatum's request for a raise, LaBron Reid, director of special events at McLaurin Parking, said it was a personnel issue.
Randy Young, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said the University focuses on pedestrian and motorist safety through initiatives such as Watch for Me NC with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“The campus prioritizes walking as an ecological and viable means of getting from point A to point B, so pedestrian safety is a top priority for us, and it’s dependent on two factors," Young said. "There has to be a common understanding between pedestrians and motorists. It’s not a one-way street — there has to be a responsibility of situational awareness.”
Reid said McLaurin Parking originally had a contract with the University for events on campus.
“An extension of that contract was when Chancellor Thorp wanted to address some of the issues of safety at the South Road crossing (and) they requested … we provide crossing guards so it wouldn’t tie up law officers doing that duty,” Reid said.
Reid said he is happy McLaurin Parking is able to participate in the contract with the University.
“We’re glad we have the opportunity to participate in that, both as a contractor and myself being an alum of the University,” Reid said. “Being able to give back to the community some with our services by doing that. The campus has always been a very pedestrian-heavy atmosphere, and anything we can do to help prevent pedestrian-vehicle interactions with a negative impact, we’re more than happy to do that.”
Reid said the crossing guards create more control on South Road.
“Our traffic control officers are trained and certified to go through a special certification class that’s run by the Raleigh Police Department,” Reid said.
Tatum said he has visited campus since leaving his job and students and staff have approached him positively.
“The people, the owner of the company, they didn’t realize how valuable we are, or were, up there. They hardly came onto campus,” Tatum said. “They were getting the contract money, but they’re not really on the campus actually (seeing) what we did on a regular basis.”
Tatum now works in business development in Cary. He said he does not plan to take action or work with McLaurin Parking again.
“Just the whole atmosphere of the campus, that’s what I miss the most,” Tatum said. “Of all the jobs, that was the best job that I’ve had because people were just so nice.”
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