Office of the President

Reimagining safety at the UW

Creating learning, working and living environments that enable every UW community member to be successful requires a holistic approach to safety and well-being that brings together a range of resources in a coordinated, accountable manner.

A vision of holistic safety

A community of the UW’s size and complexity — three campuses and numerous medical facilities, all with public and private spaces including classrooms, research labs and residences, and all in an earthquake- and flood-prone region — requires a range of safety services. These range from overall emergency readiness and response, to violence prevention, mental health support, and both situation-appropriate intervention and post-incident support carried out as needed by unarmed safety responders or armed law enforcement officers.

A holistic approach to safety and well-being must be responsive to the different needs, as well as to the different experiences — some negative — that various community members have had with safety resources and personnel, both on and off of our campuses.

Aligning with the needs and values of the community

President Cauce has asked Sally Clark, director of regional and community relations, to lead a reimagining of how safety and well-being resources are organized and delivered at the UW. Consulting with student, faculty and staff leadership groups, Clark will lead an effort that will enable the University to better plan for and provide responses specific to the needs of the situation and more responsive to individual and community needs and experiences.

This will include aligning SafeCampus, Emergency Management and the UW Police Department (UWPD) in a new organization under a vice president-level position, while also evaluating what other safety and well-being units should more closely associate with this new entity, such as Environmental Health & Safety and Health Sciences Security. The process will also evaluate better coordination of community safety priorities and implementation across all three campuses and UW Medicine locations in order to prioritize the safety of all members of our community.

At the same time, the UW Bothell and UW Tacoma chancellors will also be launching efforts to evaluate the specific safety needs of their campuses and how to meet them while also aligning with the UW’s overall goal of a holistic approach to safety and well-being across the University.

Timeline

This project was announced Dec. 2, 2021 and has a goal of issuing final recommendations by the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Periodic project updates from Campus Community Safety Project leadership will be posted below.

Campus Community Safety Report to the Community

After six months of stakeholder conversations, research and feedback gathering, Campus Community Safety Project members have complied recommendations and next steps to charter a new Division of Campus Community Safety. This division will be the new home for first-line safety units, including UW Emergency Management, SafeCampus and UW Police (Seattle campus) beginning September 2022. You can read the full report to the community here.

May 2022 update

This month project leadership continued to refine the proposed organizational chart for the new Division of Campus Community Safety. Much of the head-scratching had to do with how the new division’s administrative functions should look in light of the UW’s Finance Transformation project. In practical terms, UWFT means some finance-related jobs at the UW will change and staff may be moved around. Aligning the new division’s finance functions with this model now — a year ahead of the rest of campus — should allow for a smoother transition for the division as a whole.

Additionally, project leadership continued to conduct interviews with other universities that are undertaking reimagining and reorganizing work on their campuses. This month we had conversations with staff at Portland State University and the University of Michigan. The settings and strengths of schools may be different across the country, but the focus on anti-racism; developing effective on-call interventions for people in behavioral health crisis; and creating communities grounded in belonging run through most of the efforts.

In step with interest across all three campuses, the UW Office of the President has approved Phase I funding for developing proposals for effective, unarmed responses for people in behavioral health crisis, starting with the Seattle campus. Combined with support from the U District Partnership, this funding will get the project moving forward with students (through the Evans Policy Innovation Collaborative) undertaking research and interviews to build an understanding of current needs and services in the Seattle campus area and what’s working in other cities. Stay tuned for updates. If you would like to get involved, please use the comment form below and include your contact information.

April 2022 update

Though largely unseen by the greater campus community, the UW’s three campuses and UW Medicine undertake continuous planning and training for how to react, operate and recover if disaster — natural, structural or human-prompted — strikes. Much of this work is defined by federal and state policies and reflected in the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. Both the UW’s Internal Audit unit and Enterprise Risk Management team are in the midst of reviewing the UW’s emergency management plans and structures. Coupled with the move of the Seattle-based Emergency Management team into a new division focused on campus community safety, now is an ideal time to assess existing plans and delegations of authorities in case quick decisions are necessary.

Before work on the new Campus Community Safety Division began, the UW had an Emergency Readiness Committee. Members met regularly to share information and coordinate activities. That group was recently sunsetted and, starting this summer, the Emergency Management Planning Committee will start meeting. This group will be comprised of decision-makers from key units across the University. A separate staff-level group will be convened for ongoing information sharing and coordination.

Considerations around how the UW prepares for emergencies have helped inform some of the duties and responsibilities of the new Vice President for Campus Community Safety. When it comes time to search for that person, the job duties will include disaster response, operations and recovery.

Additionally, our work on a proposed joint project with students to assess the potential to provide unarmed alternative responders for calls about people in acute mental health crisis continues to progress. We are currently waiting to hear about funding for the first phase – a review of calls for help, what services exist for the Seattle campus and the University District currently, and what callers say they need in terms of services. Special thanks to the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office and the newly established City of Seattle Community Safety and Communications Center for sharing information about their efforts to screen 911 calls for those that could better be answered by skilled intervention teams.

Thank yous: We are grateful to the following individuals and groups for their time in April.

  • UW Medicine staff regarding Montlake bus stop safety
  • Seattle Mayor’s advisor for public safety
  • Director of the new City of Seattle Community Safety and Communications Center
  • Faculty Council on Race, Equity & Justice
  • Tri-Campus Advisory Board
  • Student Advisory Board for the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

March 2022 update

Throughout March, we have continued sketching models for how to move units from their existing “homes” in the University’s organizational structure to the future Division of Campus Community Safety. We also launched the search for a new UW Police Department leader.

When not drafting, erasing and re-drawing org chart boxes or tracking down job codes, we research “reimagining.” The UW’s efforts to reimagine public safety are not happening in a vacuum — there is much we can learn from other communities across our nation who are asking the same kinds of questions. As we approach the two-year mark of George Floyd’s murder by Derek Chauvin, the push nationwide to reexamine community safety in towns, cities, counties and campuses remains high-profile and widespread. Jurisdictions and advocates for alternative models continue to drill down into past failures and propose changes to ensure appropriate screening of calls for help and dispatch of effective services.

If you are invested in campus community safety, we invite you to join us in learning from this boarder conversation. The following are just a few examples of the many, many articles and projects on reimagining definitions of safe communities and safety services:

Thank yous: We’d like to extend a big thank you to the following groups for discussions this past month:

  • UW Medicine faculty Council on Research and Graduate Education
  • Health Sciences Facilities security staff
  • 2021 Non-Police Crisis Response ad hoc committee
  • School of Public Health doctoral students
  • Alternative Emergency Services student advocates

February 2022 update

After the initial two months of work reimagining and reorganizing, a couple of questions come up regarding the latter: “Why move SafeCampus into the new Division of Campus Community Safety? How will that improve outcomes?”

Better outcomes for students, staff and faculty will need to be proven year after year (we’ll talk metrics in future updates), but there is a theory behind the move, a theory grounded in contemporary debate about how to change the culture of safety services, including expectations of policing.

For those who are unfamiliar, SafeCampus is the University’s violence prevention and response program. Trained staff serve a safety planning and threat assessment function for students, staff and faculty where ever they may be. That means they not only support UW community members at the UW’s three campuses and hospitals, but also students and personnel studying or working outside the United States and even on board UW’s ships at sea. In addition, SafeCampus staff provide important training in violence prevention, and in prevention of sexual harassment and gender discrimination for academic student employees and post docs. Calls to SafeCampus can be made anonymously.

The SafeCampus focus on violence prevention, employing deep listening and paying heightened attention to the experiences and concerns of people of color and people with typically marginalized identities aligns with long-standing calls to reimagine how cities, towns, colleges and universities think about the spectrum of safety needs and effective services.

Under the new Division of Campus Community Safety, SafeCampus will do everything that it does now, but as the cultural heart of a division dedicated to the present and future of campus safety. The SafeCampus manager will be an administrative direct report to a vice president rather than multiple levels down in a division and competing with a raft of other priorities. Nothing changes about when and how SafeCampus communicates case details. SafeCampus would not work cases with UW Police any more than it does now — when a serious threat is identified and requires a broader team approach to prevention and intervention.

Ultimately, the move elevates attention to violence prevention and alternative responses to crises. This is core for reimagining the now and future of public safety.

Thank yous: A big thank you to the teams and individuals who took time to meet in February, including:

  • LiveWell (home to the UW’s confidential advocates)
  • Student Conduct Office
  • Faculty Council on Gender Equity and Justice
  • UWPD officers and sergeants at Feb. 2 roll calls

Furthering the conversation: This episode of the Hidden Brain podcast focuses on the work of Yale professor and psychologist Philip Ariba Goff who studies the relationship between race and policing in the United States. In an hour, it covers a lot of ground regarding expectations of police, the expectations we have of each other, and what progress can look like. It’s a great listen.

January 2022 update

After a formal launch by President Cauce in December, the University of Washington’s rethinking of expectations and approaches to safety services for people and places is underway. This work is the result of years of listening sessions and dialogue about both the decentralized way the University approaches safety-related programs and policing, and it takes place in the greater context of the national reckoning with race and policing. It also recognizes that the ongoing pandemic presents further challenges for emergency planning and resiliency. While this project will have important near-term milestones, the reimagining work will be long-term; sustained and carried over the years to test potential solutions. The goal is to facilitate holistic planning, prevention, intervention and resiliency through a division focused solely on the safety of campus communities.

A holistic and accountable approach to safety must be responsive to the different needs and the different experiences — some negative — that various community members have had with safety resources and personnel. It must also consider experiences both on and off our campuses. In the near-term, the Campus Community Safety Project will focus on the reorganization of safety-related units (including how to support safety efforts at all three campuses and UW Medicine sites) and building a framework for how the UW better plans for, prevents, intervenes and supports recovery in a variety of situations. Consultation with students, faculty and staff is an integral part of the near-term and long-term work. In January, initial, high-level conversations were started with a variety of groups and key staff, including:

  • The Student Wellbeing Collaborative
  • The Faculty Council on Race, Equity & Justice
  • SafeCampus
  • Emergency Management
  • OMA&D Student Advisory Board
  • Tri-Campus Advisory Board
  • School of Medicine
  • UWPD leadership and communications staff

Thank you to all who shared your experiences and perspectives during these discussions. Additional staff discussions and wider-audience workshops related to this project are still to come. The Campus Community Safety Project homepage includes a feedback form (below) if you have thoughts or questions.

UW community feedback

The Campus Community Safety Project has been collecting comments and perspectives from UW community members. If you have thoughts or questions, we invite you to use the feedback form below.

I would like to see a centering of the historical and structural white supremacy that the UW is steeped in. Too often “safety” centers white comfort. I think this effort is important and certainly long overdue…

Why not use an expanded use of outdoor surveillance technology and security personnel presence to create a safer campus environment, particularly at night…

As a parent of a University of Washington student, I would like to see a priority placed on campus security presence (police officers and security guards) as well as investing in resources to support students.

Putting the safety of students who live in the Greek community as more of a priority. Increased patrols in that area would be helpful.

I would like to see more unarmed, non-police/security responders. That is, I think there are many situations that could be resolved by a team of a mental health counselor, a social worker, and an EMT. With no police, no intimidating uniforms, and no weapons, hopefully the parties requiring a response would be more receptive to the help offered, that help would be more neatly tailored to the situation, and there would be limited chance that anyone gets hurt.

Provide your feedback

You can provide your thoughts, ideas and feedback to the project team by using the form below.