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Public Safety responds to trending student plights

Public Safety responds to trending student plights

Public Safety officer John Marcantinio speaks to audience members as his colleagues look on. The panel offered Hofstra community members an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with Public Safety officials and express general growing safety concerns. 

Photo courtesy of: Robert Kinnard/ Hofstra Chronicle

Concerns over insufficient suicide prevention training, uncertain active shooter protocol, inefficient medical assistance and limited LGBTQ+ friendly procedures were some of the many issues raised by students to Public Safety (PS) staff members during the event hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) titled “Public Safety Hears You.”

The event, held on Wednesday, Feb. 28, was organized and moderated by SGA members Carissa Ramirez, a junior public policy and political science major, and Deandra Denton, a sophomore public policy and sociology major. “We want to give everyone a voice,” Denton said. “That’s the whole premise of this event – to give people a voice and have a dialogue.”

The event lasted around 90 minutes and covered a range of topics that were prompted by questions asked either in person, via write-in cards or anonymously. One person asked, “How are PS officers trained to interact with students in the LGBTQ+ community? What actions are being taken to ensure students’ preferred pronouns and gender identities are being respected?”

Officer Ed Hagenmiller answered the question by first acknowledging that the subject is new to PS and that for the last two years officers have been receiving in-service training semi-annually.

This training goes over changes in “different pronouns and the way we treat different students,” Hagenmiller said. “We are sensitive and we are trying to make everybody feel comfortable and that is backed up by the training that we get.”

PS Officer Dave Edouard said that in a medical emergency, the name on the student’s driver’s license is what they are required to go by. “[When] you go to the hospital, that’s what they’re going to call you. They are not going to call you by the name that you want them to call you,” Edouard said.

Director of PS Karen O’Callaghan said that this is new and that they are working on it but, “It’s going to take a little time.”

Transportation to hospitals was another issue brought up on Wednesday. Sophomore bio-engineering major Zain Farooqui asked, “What is [Public Safety] doing to help students in need of emergency medical services and transportation to the hospital if necessary?”

O’Callaghan said that all officers are certified first responders. She continued, “If someone needs emergent care and needs more than we can do in basic first aid and needs to be treated at a hospital, [they should know that] we are not medical transport. We are not equipped to do medical transport.”

O’Callaghan said that if a student needs medical transportation, then they will have to go in an ambulance.

“Our duty is to the campus and we can’t keep taking our vehicles off campus for [a] prescription or to go for follow-up visits,” O’Callaghan said. “In most cases students will be responsible for finding transportation in follow-up visits ... Maybe make sure you guys have an Uber account so you can get somewhere.”

The night shuttle was brought up a number of times at the event. Junior women’s studies and journalism major Kat Smith wanted to know why the night shuttle route was structured the way it was.

Smith said that they think the shuttle should do more direct pickups and drop-offs.

“Why does the night shuttle only come to certain corners and then have you wait at those locations? I was walking home and I was mugged and that wouldn’t have happened if the night shuttle was able to pick me up [from my original location].”

O’Callaghan said that the route was created a couple of years ago based on where the majority of off-campus students lived; however, PS would be willing to sit down and see if there should be a new route that caters to where students now live.

Other safety concerns voiced by students adressed on-campus issues. After the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many students were concerned over what to do if there is an active shooter on campus. O’Callaghan stated that students are taught at orientation what to do, that they have informational pamphlets and that they are working on a video for the website that goes along with the run, hide, fight philosophy.

Freshman journalism major Rob Kinard said, “I’m a freshman and I just recently attended [orientation] and I remember no such discussion. There could ... be something more that you could do for us students when it comes to telling us what to do if that were to happen.”

O’Callaghan told the audience that PS realizes that they need to get it out there again. She then addressed the notion that there was no discussion at orientation about active shooter safety.

“Sometimes it’s missed, sometimes it’s not as extensive as we would like it to be. We will try to put something online because it’s hard to get to all students.”

Questions about PS’ role in assisting students who are suffering from mental issues were brought up by some students.

“My question was really more [about] students who are mentally ill and potentially volatile. What protocol is in place to ensure that these students are not harmed in their interactions with Psafe, even if they lash out?”

“Our goal is to keep everyone safe,” O’Callaghan said before explaining that PS may have to take action to restrain a student with a mental illness if they pose a threat. “The key is to identify those students who might need help.”

An anonymous student wrote, “Last semester, I attempted suicide and it seems like there wasn’t a protocol in place because it was so unorganized. I had an officer next to me looking awkward and telling me life is beautiful and it didn’t help the situation. What are you doing to better train officers for these types of situations?”

O’Callaghan explained that PS officers work with the Student Health and Counseling Center to receive their training. She also made it clear that it is not PS’ job to deal with that student’s mental illnesses.

“Our officers are really just a conduit to helping that student, keeping that student calm until we can get them to the trained professionals,” O’Callaghan said.

“In terms of training, actually, Dr. Guthman from counseling services did an extensive training with the officers this year,” O’Callaghan said. “We do have training in the area of handling students in crises and we work very closely with the counseling center because one of the key things Hofstra has is the ability to have a counselor on call 24/7. If that student who asked that question would prefer to contact  me and give more specifics, [then] I would appreciate it so [that] I can work with Dr. Guthman to see how we can improve our training in that area.”

Assistant Director of Compliance Lynda O’Malley said, “From a humanistic standpoint, many of our Public Safety officers have expressed that they are parents and I think that they genuinely care about the welfare of students … But there is a tremendous amount of training that goes into what we do, and [we] work collaboratively with residential programs because Residence Life [has] to make sure [as well] that we can help when a student is in crisis: morning, noon or night.”

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