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The Truth About Campus Security

Like most students on campus, prior to working the Campus Safety and Security desk, I did not know what security really did; aside from checking my ID when I went to my dorm and raiding rooms. The majority of the student population has had negative incidents with a security officer, or has a negative idea of them due to their friend’s experiences or when new policies are enforced. This is very true in regards to the ticket spike back in February. What students do not realize is that security is here to enforce the rules and ensure student safety.

So what does security really do? While the shifts differ, their duties and priorities are pretty much identical. Prior to any shift, all of the officers on duty will meet for roll call where the supervisor will discuss their individual assignments and go over any necessary information that is important for that shift. From there, the officers are on their way, whether they are patrolling campus, enforcing parking rules, or securing the dorms. Most importantly, they are out to ensure your safety. The midnight shift takes student safety very seriously. In each dorm, an officer will be stationed to check IDs and to check in visitors. Also, throughout the night, they do floor checks as well as exterior walkthroughs to ensure that the area is safe. This is especially helpful for those rough nights where you think the bushes outside Smiley and McKay are your bed. If that wasn’t enough, if it’s late at night or you don’t feel safe walking across campus, an officer will gladly escort you to your building on one of the golf carts.

Now before you give our security officers more trouble, it is important that you understand their background. All of the officers at Campus Safety and Security are well-trained and have experience from previous careers that allow them to succeed here. Every officer is unique and brings something to the table. I have met officers who are retired police officers in places like New York and Tampa; other officers have military experience such as the Air Force and Army; as well as other law enforcement backgrounds like Secret Service, Private Investigators, Corrections, and so much more. If the titles don’t convince you enough, their years of experience will. There are officers here, like Officers Henderson and Munger, who have been at UT for more than 18 years. There are also officers who have years and years of experience within their fields. Take Officer Varano, for example. She worked for the police department for twenty years, as well as another six years with the sheriff’s department. Officer Munger also has over forty years of police, investigative, and security work. So next time you try to get away with something or mouth off to a security officer because they asked you to dump your drink, just remember who you are talking to, because it could be an ex-cop or ex-Secret Service Agent.

Having all of this experience and power comes with a lot of responsibility. All of our security officers have a belt that includes handcuffs, an extendable baton, and of course, their gun, as well as many other items necessary for specific situations. But, with great power comes great responsibility. You will never see an officer draw their gun on a student or beat a student with their baton. Those are there for safety reasons, and the rules apply as if they were in any other law enforcement field.

With a job like this, you know there are stories to be told. Even as a Desk Assistant, I have plenty of stories and experiences that make me love my job. There are countless stories of drunken students and the things they have done; naked individuals wandering campus and the things officers have found when searching rooms. Office Erwin told me of his most memorable experience. “When the Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl, the campus went wild with a group of students rioting on campus. That group pulled down a temporary goal post on the soccer field and carried it down Kennedy BLVD before throwing it in the river. This incident was reported on CNN as the only campus to riot that night.”

While there are numerous stories that make you question the average college student, there are those other stories and aspects that bring the negative side of this job out.  Campus Safety does everything they can to ensure the safety and success of UT students, so seeing them make bad decisions actually does upset them. Keep in mind, these officers were young once; they know what you are doing and what you did that one night you came back unable to walk properly. The shifts that the officers work also have a negative side to them. Working midnight is not an easy shift to work. As Officer McCune told me, he “misses the daylight.” For the midnight guys, their shift starts at 11 pm and ends at roughly 7 am. So while everyone is out and about during the day, they are catching up on their sleep. My first semester as a Desk Assistant, I worked 3am-7am three days a week with one 11pm-3am shift. That while taking a full course load, and being involved in multiple organizations, took its toll on me. Now, imagine working nights, while balancing a life, family, hobbies, and even classes; it’s tough, but they do it every day.

Regardless of your relationship with Security, they will always be there to assist you. Whether it is needing advice on something, or someone to talk to while you wait for your friend to scan you up the elevator, Security will always greet you with a smile and give you what they can. When I asked officers for advice for UT students, there was no holding back. In case you don’t believe, here’s the advice Security gave me:

“Think of your future before you say or do anything. Don’t be a follower. Register your bike. Don’t put all your information on social media. Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Clean up your rooms!” –Officer Robertson

“Always be aware of your surroundings. We are here for your safety. Most of us are parents and if you need help, we would do our best to help.”-Officer Varano

“Make safe choices in life.” –Officer Kruse

“Prioritize life. Your main goal at UT is to ensure you receive and outstanding education and graduate from a prestigious school. Don’t let other student’s bad decisions influence you. You don’t have to be the life of the party. Don’t forget how hard you worked to get here. It wasn’t easy.” –Officer Henderson

“Have fun and enjoy your college experience, but don’t lose focus and jeopardize your educational opportunity.” –Officer Lopez

Working with Security has positively impacted my experience while at UT, and in fact has led me towards finding that perfect career that fits my personality. Prior to working here, I had the biggest fear of interacting with the officers and was intimidated of them. After just a short period of time, I have established a connection with every officer, and know that I always have someone to talk to and seek advice from.

So, the next time you go to your car and find a ticket for not displaying your parking permit or for parking in the wrong area, just remember what security does for you before you storm into the officer and scream at the Desk Assistant.

 

The Office of Campus Safety and Security can be found between Res Com and Thomas Parking Garage on North B Street. Officers are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year.

Contact Information:

Twenty-four hour phone number: (813) 257-7777

Email: [email protected]

Emily Schonaerts is currently a Junior at the University of Tampa where she is studying Criminology and Psychology. While a St. Louis native and natural red head, she currently calls Orlando her home. When not focusing on academics, Emily can be found with her Alpha Chi Omega sisters crafting and promoting Greek unity or protecting the campus as a Desk Assistant at Campus Safety and Security.If not seen on campus, Emily can be found at Disney's Hollywood Studios giving tours into the movies at The Great Movie Ride! While only a part time Tour Guide, you can bet she is full of knowledge and fun facts about Disney and The Great Movie Ride-which is in fact a ride.Being a Junior means it is almost time to become a real adult, but for now, nothing is better than being an almost adult while still trying to figure out how to make a Criminology degree like a degree in Forensics."And I'll see you at the movies, the stuff dreams are made of."
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