Tag Archives: public safety

Emergency Text a False Alarm

Monday afternoon around 4 p.m., many students received jarring alerts in the form of text messages sent from USF’s Department of Public Safety to their personal cell phones. The messages informed students that the campus was in a state of emergency and they should evacuate immediately. Students then received a follow-up phone call relaying a similar message.

Sophomore hospitality major Stephen Beemsterboer was in a reception for his major when, he said, “All of a sudden, everyone started taking out their phones.” When they saw the message, he said, “People were freaking out.”

Public Safety Lieutenant Dean Coit told the Foghorn, “The message was not supposed to be sent out.” Public safety was conducting a trial of the new system for training purposes. The message was a blank template, and the fields about the type of emergency were not filled out.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Coit said, “We are not 100% sure why the message was sent. But we can say it was just a training error.”

Though alarmed by the message, most students did not actually evacuate the campus. Many figured out the message was not real. Coit said he believes in a real emergency, students would be able to tell because it would be more specific. Because the fields in the template were not filled out, he said, “The message was so vague, so it didn’t look real.” In a real emergency, Coit said, “There will be more information about what type of emergency it is and what action students should take.”

Beemsterboer said the students he was with did not choose to evacuate immediately. Instead, someone verified if it was a true emergency, and found it was not. Still, he said, “It was a rather ominous message. Definitely a cause for alarm.”*

How Safe Do You Feel On Campus?

At least once a week I receive an email from public safety informing me that a student or a person in the area around USF has been robbed, hurt, harassed, etc. It seems as though these emails are neverending and something needs to improve in order to decrease the amount of crime on campus. These emails are scary because it is happening to University of San Francisco students and it could possibly happen to anyone at any time.

Public Safety should be constantly moving around, especially on campus, so they are constantly looking out for the safety of the community. Also, there needs to be more information and advertisement about the night shuttle so students know that it is  there to get them home safely. Instead of just sending us emails about something bad that happened to a student, they should be sending us tips on how to protect ourselves. Walking with a buddy is the general rule, but that is not always an option.

Jennifer Baldwin, a sophomore at USF, really wanted to live on Lone Mountain this year; however safety was an issue that pushed her to stay on main campus. She is a member of the Delta Zeta sorority and their meetings usually run late. After going to the meeting and then the library to work on homework, it would likely be too late to take the shuttle up to Lone Mountain, and she would have to walk home alone. Baldwin said, “I am nervous walking between campuses because of the stories from Public Safety and also because it is really dark on the streets between campuses.”

Most people who have been attacked are those who are walking in between campuses on those dark small roads. These roads are very deserted and make people look like prime targets. Baldwin said a good idea would to make the shuttle run later and make sure it is driving all around campus so people can see it and catch it. Instead she walks a couple of blocks and does not see Public Safety at all.

Gina Minutillo, a junior at USF, lived on Lone Mountain last year and had to walk home alone late at night. Minutillo said, “I was not aware of the shuttle service Public Safety offers until the middle of the year; I found out about it through a friend.”

There needs to be more signs around campus, or when Public Safety sends out emails they should just write the number and the shuttle times. Minutillo also said, “When I called Public Safety, they would either not be able to give me a ride, or I would have to wait outside by myself for about 15 minutes. Fortunately, nothing happened to me, but the shuttle service put me in danger several times.”

Public Safety needs to work out these kinks by driving around more or even adding more drivers or vans to make sure that everyone in the USF community is safe at all times.

Students should be able to feel safe walking around campus at night or walking home near campus. It is the school’s responsibility to protect us. Public Safety needs to make a few improvements like having a greater presence on campus at night and providing suggestions to protect ourselves, besides walking with a friend. Hopefully, if improvements are made, we will be receiving fewer and fewer emails from Public Safety informing us about another attack.

Extended Shuttle Hours Ensure Student Safety

Making students feel safe on their way between home and campus has always been a priority for Public Safety, especially late at night when crimes are more likely to occur.

One feature of Public Safety’s efforts to keep students safe is their shuttle that runs at night, picking up students from locations near campus and driving them home to either their dorm or apartment near campus. This provides students with a ride home at night, which is safer than walking or taking the bus.

Due to popular demand by students, as gauged by surveys conducted by ASUSF Senate last spring, Public Safety has decided to extend the hours of the shuttle to 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while their services stop at 1 a.m. on the other days. The extra two hours on weekend nights will make the shuttle available to students later at night to ensure their safety on their way home.

The Foghorn understands that USF has had to make many budget cuts in order to adjust to the current economic climate. Despite the state of the economy  it is good to see that students’ safety was seen as a priority and was not negatively affected. Student safety measures were not only maintained, but they were actually increased. This shows that the University is keeping its promise to students that their experience at USF will not be negatively impacted by budget cuts.

In previous years, Public Safety never had the budget to extend the hours that the shuttle ran, but student concerns about safety made them prioritize this initiative.

These new hours are currently on a trial period for the 2009 fall semester. Public Safety is observing how much of a demand students have for the new hours and if they are being utilized. If the extension is seen to be unnecessary, the shuttle’s hours will go back to ending at 1 a.m. However, the response from students who took ASUSF’s survey last semester showed the majority of students want the hours of the shuttle to be extended, indicating that the new hours are probably here to stay.

The Foghorn appreciates another new amendment to the shuttle services. In the past, the shuttle was not available to students who were noticeably under the influence of alcohol. Inebriated students would be denied a ride, leaving them to find an alternative way home. The new policy stipulates that Public Safety will not turn any student away. This is a positive development for student safety. Student drinking is a reality, and intoxicated students are at significantly higher risk of not getting home safely. With the shuttle they will have a guaranteed sober driver and will get home safely.

There are still some imperfections in the safety shuttle system. Sometimes students cannot get in contact with someone at the shuttle’s services. Also, students might be told to call back in 15 minutes because there is a back up of pick-ups, and if a student with a disability calls, he or she gets priority over other students. There is only one shuttle on patrol, making it hard for the drivers to get to everyone if there are more than one to three calls in a certain period of time. This is expected with a service like this, and the Foghorn believes that these imperfections do not negate the overall positive service that the shuttle offers.

With the approval of the new hours, students can feel safer, and it is good to see that safety holds such importance with Public Safety and ASUSF. Hopefully students will take advantage of the shuttle’s new hours when they are trying to get home at night.

Night Shuttle Service Extended, Some Delays Expected

Although the Night Shuttle hours have been extended Thursday through Sunday, some delays are to be expected due to limited vehicles. However, Public Safety offers an escort at all hours if a student feels unsafe or needs assistance.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Although the Night Shuttle hours have been extended Thursday through Sunday, some delays are to be expected due to limited vehicles. However, Public Safety offers an escort at all hours if a student feels unsafe or needs assistance. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Public Safety’s night safety shuttle has extended its hours to 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as of Sept. 1, which has been a collaborative effort between the Department of Public Safety and ASUSF Senate since last semester to increase weekend night services by two hours.

The night safety shuttle, which provides students transportation to and from on-campus and off-campus residences, still runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday, but Thursday through Saturday, last drop-offs are now made at 3 a.m. ASUSF approved the extended hours in April of 2009, with the exception that ASUSF provided funds for the extra hours served since Public Safety did not have sufficient funds to do it on their own in the past.

Now, students have until 2:30 a.m. to request the night shuttle service for pick-up or drop-off, which is the cutoff for the days ending at 3 a.m. For days ending at 1 a.m., students have until 12:30 a.m.

“I think extending the hours will make our campus safer as long as students are aware of it and utilize it,” said junior Kendra Brazile. “When I used to use it, they stopped at 1 or 12, so if I wanted to get back to main campus, say from Lomo [Lone Mountain] or LV [Loyola Village], after those hours I would have to call public safety or walk, and I would usually end up walking.”

Although the new hours will be implemented throughout the entire school year, ASUSF is using the fall semester as a trial basis to test out the new hours. At the end of the semester, ASUSF will evaluate whether the hours have been adequately used to establish if the hours are worth keeping, said Nicole Beamer, operations manager in the Department of Public Safety.

Beamer said there has always been a need for longer hours, but with the funded resources now available by ASUSF, their partnership has made those hours possible.

“ASUSF made it a hot topic,” Beamer said, when former ASUSF president Alex Platt brought up the need for extended hours to Senate and the Department of Public Safety during the 2009 Spring semester. According to the April 21 ASUSF meeting, the idea to increase the service by only two hours on weekends was most “practical” and “effective,” based on the 110 survey responses that ASUSF received from students, in which most requested extended hours on weekends.

ASUSF estimated they would fund $22,000, which is a surplus in their budget, accounting for $17,164 in hourly compensation for drivers and the remaining sum for fuel. Although hourly compensation and fuel costs $29 an hour, drivers are paid $9 in overtime for the additional two hours served on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

But ASUSF had reservations about funding the extra hours because there were concerns of students under the influence using the shuttle. Prior to the changes, those students were not granted shuttle privileges, but now, Public Safety has made an exception. Intoxicated students are driven to their desired locations under the circumstance that drivers must call Public Safety. “We’re not going to deny students,” said Daniel L. Lawson, executive director of Public Safety. It is a relaxed policy, but proper university actions will be taken, he said. “It is a balance of safety and patience.”

Lawson said their only challenge is the availability of the shuttle. “Adding hours, there’s still a problem because of need and calls for service. We can estimate the calls, but if we get more than one to three calls at a time, people are told to please call back in 15 minutes,” he said, which delays all requests for the limited one shuttle van circulating the area. Lawson said any student could hit a bad timing in which the dispatch receives multiple calls, and delays are created not because of trying to be lax in their service, but because they are currently working on dropping other students off.

Other delays may be the result of priority given to students with disability, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the calls received. If three students are placed on a waiting list, and the fourth caller is a student with disabilities, the disabled student automatically moves up to first on the waiting list, Beamer said. Public Safety has an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) shuttle that operates in the daytime, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, which only provides transportation to students with disabilities.

The day shuttle is a matter of convenience, Beamer said, but the night shuttle is a combination of convenience and safety.

“It’s a good thing, especially for those students that live off campus,” said junior Alexandra Garcia. “But I think that if it’s not publicized, students will not even know about the extended hours.”

The shuttle will keep the same 6-block radius that limits drops-offs and pick-ups beyond the boundaries of California Street, Divisadero Street, Fell St. and Sixth Avenue. Beamer said the limitations are for insurance purposes.  Only two vehicles rotate shifts, one in the day and the other at night.

But Lawson said that just because the shuttle service ends at 3 a.m., it “doesn’t suggest that we don’t provide a safety escort.” During the hours that the shuttle is not in service, students can call Public Safety for a safety escort. A minimum of two officers and two cars are working at all hours of the day, but Lawson said if they get busy, delays will occur, particularly in emergency situations in which a student has to be taken to the hospital, for example. “Those are our weaknesses,” Lawson said.

Public Safety to Replace Segways With Rascal Scooters

The economic downturn hit close to home at the budget meeting this past week with the board of trustees. USF’s Department of Public Safety was hit hardest when the group learned that its transportation budget would be sliced in half for the upcoming school year. After hours of debate on how best to acclimate to the sudden drop in funds, it was decided that all current methods of transportation would be sold and the department would invest in a new fleet of Rascal scooters for patrolling officers.

“We examined many resources, but Rascals always seemed to come out on top. They’re electric, they’re reliable and they have a lifetime guarantee from The Scooter Store,” said Dan Lawson, Director of Public Safety.

Rascals can reach top speeds of 30 miles per hour, where Segways could barely top 20. “This added 10 miles per hour was what made the Rascals stand out from the rest,” said Lawson.

Negotiations are currently underway to sell off the remaining patrol cars and Segways to charities in Africa who are there fighting the AIDS epidemic. USF is cutting the charities a break and offering good prices for the Segways, which is apparently an excellent mode of transportation in the rural African jungle. Unlike jeeps and Landrovers, Segways are immune to sand build-up, which can reduce a car’s speed and performance. Lawson only had this to say on behalf of the group, “One word: Karma.”

While some officers are taking the transition well, others are upset by the change. “That Segway was like my partner. I put a lot of hard work into that little guy. I even fashioned a personalized horn for the handlebars,” lamented Peter Thorn, a patrol officer at USF. “I’ll never be able to call one of those maroon scooters my own. I’m ashamed to even ride one.”

While this year’s entire transportation fund has been spent on the new fleet, the Department of Public Safety already has a wish list composed for next year. Accessories such as beverage caddies, front and rear baskets, folding trays and ‘coon tails comprise the list. A veteran officer, Scott O’Neal, pointed out, “The Rascal scooters expose us to the harsh winter elements and bitter wind of San Francisco…’coon tails are a must if we don’t want our heads to freeze.”

The only problem that Public Safety can foresee with the scooters is that officers might start being confused with members of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning. Lawson and the rest of the department have examined this possibility, but hope that the personal ‘coon tails they’ll receive next year will negate this dilemma.

The new fleet of scooters have been ordered and are on their way, and within a week USF will be welcoming a new fleet of power chairs to its walkways.

Gumwood Tree Sitters Organize Sit In, Protest New Safety Gate

Protesting on Campus

An angry student yells from the branches of the prized Gumwood tree outside of the Library to bring attention to the plans to cut the tree down. (Melissa Stihl | Foghorn)

Following a spike in broken gates over the alcohol-fueled revelry of spring break, Public Safety and Facilities Management have teamed up to decide how to replace the gates and how to also send a message about the importance of the safety barrier that vanishes without fail over weekends and holidays. Dan Lawson, director of Public Safety, said, “After many talks between the facilities team and myself, we have chosen to cut down the St. Helena gumwood in front of Gleeson Library to replace the gates.”

The St. Helena gumwood is on the endangered tree list. In addition, the tree that Lawson referred to has provided shade to students who forget to put on sunscreen for over 50 years. Alumna Sarah Pickle said, “It might sound ridiculous, but I credit that gumwood for protecting my skin from the scorching San Francisco sun.” Pickle went on to say that as a naïve undergraduate from Minnesota, she had no idea how strong the sun’s rays could be. When confronted with research and information about skin cancer in the late 1990s, Pickle started a tradition of visiting the gumwood after perusing new exhibits at the Thacher Gallery in Gleeson Library.

Current students also have strong feelings about the gumwood slated to be the next gate. A tearful senior, Jim

Dander, said “I can’t believe Public Safety is resorting to this. To think that this historic gumwood will be painted black and white like a common prisoner is just sad.”
In defense of the decision to cut down the St. Helena gumwood, Paul Flaun, director of Facilities Management, said, “This decision was not easy to make, but we had no other choice. With this economy, the cost of wood has more than tripled. We have been forced to look at our own resources to replace the gate.”

The cost of a simple black and white wooden gate has risen from $300 to $1,050. With large lumber companies like We Wood, You Should and Sap It To You cutting their staff and decreasing their transportation services, Public Safety and Facilities Management claim they have no other option but to begin sawing the gumwood on Friday. Flaun said, “I understand why students are upset, but they should take it up with the hoodlums that break the gate every weekend.”

Dander and his friend junior Jill Maraschino are frustrated with these “hoodlums” as well. They have turned their frustration into an ASUSF-sponsored club. The club, Gumwood Tree Sitters, has taken a cue from neighboring university UC Berkeley, and adopted a sit-in (or up) approach in protest of the cost cutting measures to replace the safety gate. Maraschino explained, “We can’t sit by while this incredible piece of nature and USF history is mercilessly hacked and sawed away. Our presence at the tree cutting on Friday will prevent them from destroying it.”

Dander said that the four Gumwood Tree Sitters will occupy the tree round the clock from Thursday night until Saturday morning to ensure that Public Safety doesn’t jeopardize USF’s historic natural monument. Dander added “I’d like to see if Public Safety would compromise our safety to save a few bucks.” Dander and Maraschino plan to position themselves in the middle branches of the St. Helena gumwood and remain there until Public Safety and Facilities back down. Freshman Cherub Wallace, a Gumwood Tree Sitters member, said “It should be quite the showdown. Hopefully no bark will be shed in the process.”