The University Police Department’s inability to recruit and retain Community Service Aides has left residence hall entrances without the extra measure of security the student aides provide.
Students in residence halls such as Kennedy Onassis, adjacent to the Foggy Bottom Metro, and Thurston, where more than 1,000 students live, have expressed concerns about their security.
“I am concerned that there are not enough people manning desks, and that comes under a big security issue,” said Student Association undergraduate Sen. Alexis Rice (CSAS), chair of the SA Senate’s Student Life Committee.
Dolores Stafford, director of UPD, said the department employs 140 students as CSAs each year. In previous years, an average of about 50 students returned to the CSA program. This year only 15 students returned.
Stafford said she does not know why more CSAs did not return this year.
“We don’t have time to focus on finding out why they didn’t return,” Stafford said. “Hiring is our main concern right now.”
Stafford said she is working with the SA to find new ways to recruit CSAs to staff residence halls. She said she has contacted community facilitators and community directors to ask for suggestions.
The UPD also has advertised at the Career Center, handed out applications in the lobbies of high-traffic buildings such as the Marvin Center and the Academic Center, and recruited students who live at the Mount Vernon campus.
Stafford said she also is looking into the possibility of raising the salary of the CSAs, especially for those who work the late-night shifts.
“We’re out there every day trying to encourage students to apply,” Stafford said.
Stafford said if the number of CSAs was stable, the program would be meeting staffing needs in the residence halls. As of Thursday, 83 students had been hired as CSAs, she said.
Stafford said the lack of CSAs staffing dorms is a concern, but it is not a threat to student safety.
“As long as students are taking personal responsibility, I don’t think (the lack of CSAs) is a danger to students,” she said. “CSAs are just an extra precaution and are an extra set of eyes and ears for the UPD.”
Some students said they are not concerned about the decrease in CSAs and said students should be responsible for their own safety.
“It’s definitely our responsibility,” said Aaron Bernay, a JBKO resident. “It’s up to us. I trust people in my hall.”
Other students, however, said while many students do not consider the lack of CSAs a pressing problem, it still is a concern.
“I guess I don’t really care that much right now, but I’m sure if anything ever happened, I’d wish there had been better security,” a resident of JBKO, who wished not to be identified, said. “The school advertises 24-hour security. If they’re saying that, they should back it up.”
“I think it’s definitely the student’s responsibility, but there’s a reason that we have the CSA program,” Rice said. “It’s an extra step in security. It goes both ways.”
Thurston Hall resident Robert Hodge said security in Thurston is adequate but other halls do not have tight security.
“I haven’t noticed a problem in Thurston but there’s been a couple of times I’ve walked right into other residence halls, among them Strong Hall,” Hodge said. “There are breaches of security in other halls.”
Rice said she feels the program should be maintained and its importance should not be downplayed.
“If you’re going to have a program, you need to do it right,” Rice said. “Many nights, in many residence halls, there is no one there. It’s disappointing to not see the program working the way it should.”
Stafford said she agreed the CSA program is vital and one UPD is trying to preserve.
“This is an important job,” Stafford said. “Once a (recruitment) idea comes up, we’re more than willing to make it happen pretty quickly.”
-Jason Sherman contributed to this report.