Since the beginning of the year, the College’s Campus Safety Officer Search Committee has been looking to bring a new officer on board. Laura Garciduenas ’14, Student Government Association Chair of Diversity and Equity, and Ted Steinberg ’16, Vice President of SGA, put forth a resolution stressing the importance that this new officer identifies as a woman. Considering that 55% of Conn students are women, there is a case to be made that hiring a woman officer would better represent our student demographics.
Campus Safety Director Stewart Smith reacted positively to the resolution and invited Garciduenas to join as a member of the search committee, which consists of Director Smith, Residential Life Area Coordinator Frida Rodriguez and two current campus safety officers. Of the initial 45 candidates, Director Smith and the committee have now narrowed the pool down to 14 individuals, five of which are women.
From 1989 until May 2011, Conn has employed seven women Campus Safety Officers and two women dispatchers. Director Smith answered concerns about the lack of gender diversity on staff asserting, “We have always sought to further diversify our staff to better reflect the community we serve.” However, he made no promises when asked about specifically hiring a woman. “We always strive to hire the best possible candidate,” Director Smith continued. “Our goal is to keep campus safe.”
Conn, as it is, is one of the few colleges left in the NESCAC that does not currently have a woman campus safety officer on staff. Diversity is a topic that has gained more attention recently from the Conn’s administration and the addition of a woman campus safety officer is a step in the right direction. Should we find ourselves with a woman officer this spring, Conn will rejoin the ranks of Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin and Middlebury, all of whom have women officers.
Some students have noted that the addition of a woman officer would be beneficial because it would give students the option to talk to a man or a woman, depending on with whom they felt most comfortable. Some have specifically brought up the concern that individuals may want to speak with a woman in the case of a sexual assault or domestic violence. However, Darcie Folsom, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy, stressed that all our officers are trained to deal with such matter. “I would think that the expectations for men and women on campus safety staff wouldn’t be any different,” said Folsom. “That being said, having a female officer [on staff] would be fantastic for a variety of reasons, not just for the sake of reporting sexual assault.”
Currently, campus safety officers receive yearly training with Darcie Folsom, the New London Police Department and the States Attorney’s office including basics of policy and procedures for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Additionally, two officers attended Title IX Investigator Training and Folsom says she has a close working relationship with Director Smith and the Campus Safety Staff.
However, many students want to make sure that hiring a woman officer does not deter the College from implementing more training for our current officers on issues of sensitivity and diversity. Anique Ashraf ’17, the SGA Diversity Committee liaison from the new club QPOC(+) – Queer People of Color – spoke to this point explaining, “The fact of the matter is, there just needs to be more sensitivity training [for our officers].” Ashraf noted that the Diversity Committee has also introduced the idea of sensitivity and diversity training for faculty and staff to the administration.
Conn’s culture is changing to promote more inclusion and diversity. Accordingly, steps are being made so all Connecticut College students feel comfortable reporting incidents and seeking help from Campus Safety. It remains to be seen whether this catalyst for continuous change will lie in hiring a woman campus safety officer. •