Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

When discussing whether cur-rent security measures are adequate in order to protect 12,700 students at West Chester University, the answer is debatable. A staff of approximately 20 full-time police officers, 16 full-time security officers and 20 part-time security officers, the Public Safety Department at the University, operates 24-hours a day.

However there are students, staff members and parents who see flaws in the manner in which these resources are allocated on campus.

Sykes Student Union, known as the center of community life on campus, is a public building and constantly has traffic through its lobby and three floors. Along with students, members of the community often spend their time in the Union.

A Student Director at Sykes found a man sleeping under a table while on her rounds with a coworker before closing the building.

“It’s intimidating…If the man had lashed out or had a weapon, we could’ve had a problem,” the director said, who awoke the man and asked him to leave the building.

Once business hours end, student workers manage the Union. When faced with “uncomfortable” situations, the workers are instructed to call Public Safety immediately, whose office is located on Church Street.

No police officers or security officers are stationed in the center that is open seven days a week until midnight, or 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

A student worker recalled a summer training session, which included training by law enforcement.

Self-defense was not a part of training.

In addition to training, employees carry walkie talkies, and use a code system in the event that additional help is needed. The Student Director believes the security procedures in place are necessary, but sees room for modification.

“If Public Safety would do a walk through at the end of each night, I think that would be very beneficial,” she said. “It’s a large building. There are plenty of places to hide.”

Currently there are two situations under investigation that occurred in the Union, including a female student who was followed into a restroom by a male, causing the woman to lock herself into a lavatory stall until the male exited the room.

Also, fitness center employees reported a student who had several knives on him while he was exercising. The Public Relations Department described the knives as “swiss army.”

Loretta MacAlpine, director of Public Relations, urged students to report situations that concern them.

“You need to call Public Safety. Do not delay,” said MacAlpine. Many members of the community are aware that the Union is a public building, so they take advantage of the facilities as well as the programs offered by campus organizations. A student director noticed that community members using the TV lounge each day deters students from using the lounge themselves. “Fewer students are going in the lounge because they notice,” said the director. “It’s a student union, we don’t want students to feel they can’t be here. The TV lounge is for students.”

Overall, the Director says it’s “pretty rare” that there are problems in the Union, but each evening at closing time student workers must ask students and members of the community to leave. They also must search the building a final time to look for those who attempt to stay overnight.

Beyond the Student Union are the residence halls. There are eight halls at West Chester. One is an all-female hall, while the rest are co-ed. Each hall is open with no security until 8 p.m. At this time a security officer is present at the entrance of each hall, where students must show their ID in order to enter the building. After 8 p.m. all guests must also present an ID and sign in a log.

Some parents and students feel this procedure is not enough to keep students and their belongings safe.

“I wish that there was more security in the building and that it was harder for people to get in,” said Virginia Falkenbach, a parent of a WCU freshman. She was concerned because anyone can enter a residence hall before 8 p.m.

West Chester is the second largest school in the State System of Higher Education. The largest school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, functions with a 24-hour lock down system.

Ginger Falkenbach, a Sanderson Hall resident, said the absence of security wasn’t an issue until her friends’ belongings started to go missing.

“It never really bothered me until then. I keep my door locked at all times now,” said Ginger. Two of her friends’ laptops were stolen this school year, she said.

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