Students were greeted after the winter break with rain, reunions with friends, and a campus-wide email from Vice President for Marketing and Communications Michael Lewellen outlining new building security policies. The new conditions made ID card access required after 5 p.m. in most buildings on campus.
Waldschmidt Hall can only be accessed via ID card, but there will be a Campus Safety Officer on duty outside of Waldschmidt from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to assist visitors with directions and questions. Residence halls still require ID card access at all times.
“Coming from a safety and security perspective, I always want everything locked up,” Director of Campus Safety Sara Westbrook said. “When people ask ‘Why?’ I think ‘Well, I don’t know — do you lock your house?’ Having a little bit of a barrier I think is smart.”
After former University of Portland employee Patrick Ell was arrested for the assault of Associate Vice President For Student Development Matthew Rygg, the university went on lockdown. ID card access was enforced at all times. The lockdown was lifted on Jan. 11 upon students’ return, when Lewellen sent out the email on the new security policies.
“People want to say that this is all in a response to the allegations against Patrick Ell,” Westbrook said. “And that’s part of it, that got on people’s radar screen … but I don’t want to focus just on that, because it’s more than that. There’s interpersonal violence that happens in people’s lives, people who are part of our community.”
This policy was also intended to increase the likelihood of students, faculty and staff having their ID cards with them in case of an urgent event or crisis, Westbrook said.
The University of Portland’s Department of Public Safety has also changed its name to the Department of Campus Safety, and is preparing to change its patches and uniforms too. The department has been working on this project throughout fall of 2019. These changes are in accordance with Kaylee’s Law, which requires that campus security does not resemble or act like law enforcement.
The law changes security regulations for uniforms and vehicles as well as protocols for security organizations outside of law enforcement. The law was established in response to the murder of 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer in July 2016. Edwin Lara, a security officer at Central Oregon Community College, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and killing Sawyer in Jan. 2018.
At this time, there are no exact dates for when the uniform changes will take place, Westbrook said. Updates to the email address and the sign outside of the Campus Safety building are in progress. The new uniform is planned to be two-toned with gray pants and the patches have been designed with the UP logo in mind, however, these changes are not final. These designs, if finalized, make sure that the Campus Safety uniforms cannot be confused with law enforcement.
“It’s important that people don’t think of us as police,” Westbrook said. “I wanted it to be clear when you get out there, if somebody looked out their window and saw us … that they knew immediately ‘that’s not the police.’”
Austin De Dios is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.