Director of Public Safety Ali Awadi addressed Allegheny Student Government at its meeting in the campus center lobby on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Awadi, who began as the director of public safety—formerly the Office of Safety and Security—in late July, attended the meeting to update ASG on the office’s recent work. Awadi said one of the programs he is trying to implement is a Gator Patrol Service.
According to Awadi, the program would employ students who would be trained to patrol the campus and offer escorts to anyone feeling uncomfortable walking alone. He said this is a way for the office to expand its coverage and ensure students can always take advantage of their services.
“We want to make sure students have access to us at all times,” Awadi said.
Senator Walter Stover, ’17, asked Awadi how students could be expected to meet the same standards as the rest of the public safety officers, who have more experience.
Awadi assured ASG that members of the GPS would be given training to ensure they are qualified, and would also be subjected to the same background checks as the rest of the public safety officers.
President of the Class of 2018, Valerie Hurst, asked Awadi how his officers are trained to handle psychological emergencies that they may be required to address. Awadi said his officers are trained primarily to ensure the safety of the student. He said they do receive some training from the counseling center and from outside training seminars.
“We are not trained psychologists and no law enforcement is,” Awadi said. “[The officers] are there to just gather information and to ensure that student is safe, and remains safe.”
In addition to reaching out to students more, Awadi said he hopes to host joint trainings with local law enforcement, including the Meadville Police, Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and Pennsylvania State Police.
Awadi said it is important for the college to have these relationships with local law enforcement since there are situations in which it may require their involvement. This support falls under the colleges’ cooperative agreement with the City of Meadville.
According to Awadi, his goal is for the college and local law enforcement to have a positive relationship. However, he said part of this is ensuring students are respected and treated fairly by local law enforcement officers.
Awadi said he was away from campus recently and received an email from a campus staff member—whom he said he would not provide more information on—who said they saw a group of students driving a Zipcar pulled over by Meadville Police.
The staff member, Awadi said, stated the officers “harassed them a little bit” and “made them drive around.” He said if any students experience any type of harassment from local officers they should contact him.
“Don’t be belligerent or rude or do anything that could get you arrested, but let me know what is going on,” Awadi said.
Awadi said he has already begun looking into the incident, and is invested in ensuring that students are treated with respect.
While relations with Meadville Police have been good, according to Awadi, if he hears of any incidents of harassment he is ready to address them by meeting directly with local authorities, which he said he is more than willing to do.
“I will hold their feet to the fire on this,” Awadi said.
ASG Director of Diversity and Inclusion Miranda Wilkins, ’20, asked Awadi about the colleges’ timely warning system, which sends out a campus-wide email when there is an incident that may pose a threat to the campus community. Wilkins asked if it would be possible to get some kind of follow-up email so students know when the situation has been resolved.
Awadi said he was “not against” such a measure and it was an idea he felt should be explored.
“I think we should start moving in that direction, without providing too much detail, obviously,” Awadi said.
According to Awadi student relations are what he is most focused on. He said he wants to be there for students in any way he can, and encouraged those with questions or concerns to contact him either by phone or email.
Co-Directors of Student Affairs, Sydney Fernandez, ’17, and Matthew Hartwell, ’17, shared their notes from a meeting with Awadi. They said, among other things, public safety would be updating its website so students can find more information and get to know the officers.
“They will have a picture of every public safety officer with a brief bio,” Fernandez said.
Harwell said this is part of Awadi’s goal to improve the relationship between students and his public safety officers.
“He is looking to make a very inclusive environment in terms of public safety,” Hartwell said.
ASG also appointed a new Director of Organizational Development, to fill the vacant cabinet position. Senator Mollie McDermott, ’18, was nominated by Vice President Sofia Kaufman, ’17, and approved by a unanimous vote of the senate.