By DAVID SALCIDO
The University Senate does not have a safety committee. This may be due to the practical necessity for considerations of safety to permeate all domains of Senate purview. However, we could easily say the same for budgetary matters, although at the end of the day we would all admit there is a bigger, essential discussion necessitating focused, sustained and highly informed engagement on the budget than would be achievable if we did not have a Budget Policies committee. I believe the same is true if we really look at safety, as our lives literally depend on it. And yet, here we are without a safety committee. Or maybe not …
The mission statement of the Senate Plant Utilization and Planning (PUP) committee refers specifically to considerations of campus safety, and being the primary committee charged with examining the University’s built environment and infrastructure, this makes sense. The buildings we work and learn in, and which we construct and operate in the neighborhoods Pitt is a part of, should be safe and we should be safe in them. The same goes for public outdoor spaces on campus, University transportation, and other places our faculty, staff and students are required to go by virtue of their relationship with the University. All of it intuitively meshes with the mission of PUP.
Until recently, PUP was missing an important piece necessary to fulfilling this mission because it did not have a high-level liaison from Pitt’s safety apparatus. This would be like Budget Policies not liaising directly with the CFO’s office. However, this has now changed, and PUP now includes among its liaisons Ted Fritz, the vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management. The committee will carve out time to discuss safety issues at the start of each meeting, and like so many other great examples in the Senate, this relationship should yield more efficient, timely, bidirectional communication between our University community and the elements of administration working to keep us safe.
And that is an important segue into a practical manifestation of the issue of safety at the University and the necessity of vigilance in this mission. As you might have followed, the PUP and Student Admissions, Aid and Affairs committees, Faculty Assembly and Senate Council recently all voted in support of the updated Campus Crime Awareness policy. This policy underlies the systems that alert us through a number of mechanisms when there is danger on or around campus. It exists in part as a response to a federal law (Clery Act) named after a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered amidst an unreported pattern of crime on her campus.
Pursuant to this law, Pitt must report key crime statistics annually so that we can understand the risks that face us on and near campus. The policy also governs the issuing of timely warnings and emergency notifications designed to give us information about recent, on-going or imminent threats, again with the intent of helping us stay safe.
The Campus Crime Awareness policy is just one piece of the safety puzzle. It will not be the last policy that comes before the Senate and requires us to consider how dangers to our University community are addressed. Moreover, it will not be the last time the Senate needs to engage or deliberate on matters of safety. What the next issue will be, we cannot anticipate. COVID-19, for instance, had enormous campus safety implications, as did the string of bomb threats several years ago, and the shooting at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital before that.
So, to make it clear that the Senate does indeed have a committee ready to tackle whatever safety issues may come in a focused and sustained way, the PUP committee will change its name to the Campus Utilization, Planning, and Safety (CUPS) committee.
In other words, we have a Safety Committee after all, and now you know exactly where to find it. Come join us and see what we can do together.
David Salcido is a research assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine and co-chair of the Campus Utilization, Planning, and Safety Committee.