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SGA Confronts Public Safety

Still confused by what exactly Public Safety is? Want to hear the tea on the Alexander McNab debacle from April 2019? Catch all the updates here.

Yet again, SGA, the Student Government Association of Barnard, met on Monday night at 8:00 PM. After each committee member introduced themselves and their role, things got started with the key speaker of the night; Interim Director of Barnard Public Safety (spicy!), Amy Zavadil.

Things kicked off with Ms. Zavadil, who started the position in late August, explaining who she was and what exactly her role entails. Her hiring is in response to the firing of former Executive Director of Public Safety, Antonio Gonzales, in response to the investigative report initiated due to the assault of Columbia Student Alexander McNab in Milstein this April. If you need a refresher, look no further.

Zavadil explained that she will likely only be here for the following six months, as the nation-wide search for a new Executive Director is underway. In the meantime, however, she plans to initiate a department wide “culture shift” while maintaining everyday operations. She explained that while it is clear that every individual in the Public Safety department has a deep compassion for the well being and safety of everyone on this campus, it is clear that some lack of common sentiments and consistent department communication is present. More on that later. She then broke down her role even further, explaining the full hierarchy of staff within Public Safety. Under her reside the Directors of Operations, Training and Community Engagement, Administration and Technology (this includes Barnard College access attendants), and Emergency Management and Fire Safety. Day to day operations are overseen by five full time supervisors, who we often only see in emergency situations. Under them are twenty-five security officers and sixty-five access attendants currently. 

After that brief overview, the floor was open for questions. We bet you can guess what the first questions were about. Immediately, a question of how exactly the officers directly involved in the assault of McNab were disciplined. Sadly, Zavadil explained that she cannot disclose personnel conduct actions, but that the officers certainly have not been fired. In fact, she explained that termination is far from common, and that the department aims for reform and development instead. That being said, her thoughts on the practices of employee accountability and discipline could be reformed in the coming months. In this vein, Zavadil is looking to supplement and change the training officers undergo yearly to steer away from a law-enforcement lens and closer to a college campus directed approach, especially in de-escalation training, which is often rooted in NYPD practices. She is looking to implement training on how to access effective, calming communication in dire situations without using force.

When a committee membered asked a simple question — what exactly are we supposed to do in situations like what occurred in April — she explained doesn’t feel comfortable talking about what happened because she wasn’t a part of it, but that she has listened to many perspectives. A general review of the practices from Public Safety officers working the 11 PM to 6 AM shifts has been examined closely, and they are aiming to address what the consistent understanding of those roles at those times entails.

Edit September 25, 2019, 9:15 AM: A previous version of this article had incorrectly listed Interim Executive Director of Public Safety Amy Zavadil’s position title as “Interim Director of Barnard Public Safety.” The title has been updated accordingly.

image via Bwog Archives

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