The new campus safety commission formed by Interim Chancellor Guskiewicz met for the first time on Wednesday morning to discuss the group’s mission and responsibilities, as well as to field questions from the group’s members on how they would like the commission to operate.
According to the group’s charter, the four primary items on the group’s mission are:
- Assess the campus climate and culture around campus safety.
- Provide vision and guidance to the University in the delivery of campus safety services.
- Engage in communication and develop a mutual understanding of roles and expectations between the community and UNC Police.
- Serve as a conduit for relaying information and concerns about campus policing policies, practices and related actions to the University administration and UNC Police.
Throughout the meeting, several members pressed Guskiewicz on whether the commission would be purely advisory in nature or whether members would have power of oversight over the UNC campus police.
Undergraduate student De'Ivyion Drew questioned whether or not the commission would have input on specific personnel decisions made by the campus police in terms of the hiring or firing of officers who have complaints brought against them.
Interim Director of Graduate Studies Lawrence Grossberg followed up by asking whether the commission would have input on the hiring of of the new campus police chief. Guskiewicz, throughout the meeting, answered that the commission would provide direct input on the hiring of the new police chief, but that the commission did not have direct powers of oversight and its primary goal was to advise the chancellor.
Law professor Richard Myers voiced his concern that given the makeup of the group and it’s stated mission, it would ultimately be unfit to serve in any kind of investigative role because of the group members’ lack of training and background knowledge.
The group’s charter does include a provision to create additional subcommittees to address specific issues, which Guskiewicz clarified could include a hybrid form of oversight, with the a potential subcommittee receiving additional training to work with investigators.
Jim Herrington, a professor of in the Department of Health Behavior, emphasized that he believed the commission’s ultimate goal should be to review and recommend changes to campus policies relating to policing and procedures to deal with potential misconduct.
The group spent the tail end of the meeting writing down what each member saw as the current situation that UNC was facing, and what the ultimate problem was that arose from that situation.
Guskiewicz and co-chairperson Frank Baumgartner, a professor in the Department of Political Science, said ultimately, the issue faced by the University was a “crisis of trust.” Several members of the commission voiced their belief that the student body, as well as the UNC community as a whole, had lost trust in the campus police and the systems and resources that exist to provide complaints.
The lack of transparency for investigations was a large issue for several members, specifically about the past incidents involving campus police interacting with student protestors and the events with members of the Heirs of Confederacy entering campus while carrying firearms and leaving without being arrested.
The group ultimately decided to meet three more times during the summer months, and then meet monthly throughout the academic year. All meetings will be open, although Guskiewicz and Senior University Counsel Kara Simmons did say the group would be able to enter a closed meeting in order to review confidential material. The next meeting is scheduled for June 12.
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