December 12, 2016

Dear Members of the College Community,

I am writing about ongoing work the College is doing to enhance the safety and security of our campus. A number of these efforts have been underway for some time. Others have been undertaken more recently following an incident in the Jane Addams residence hall in October.

Last summer, the College arranged for an external review of the structure and management of our Office of Campus Safety. Our goal was, and is, to understand current best practices nationwide and to take necessary steps to ensure that we offer the best possible service. A panel of experts from national liberal arts colleges came to campus at the end of October to speak with students, faculty, and staff and to make proposals for future improvements. We are continuing to work with them on recommendations for improving campus safety and security.

During Fall Weekend, New London police and Campus Safety responded to an emergency call in Jane Addams that resulted in three arrests as well as some injuries sustained during the course of the arrests. The incident was deeply upsetting for many of us. In response, the College enlisted the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) to conduct an external investigation into what happened and what we could do to prevent it from happening again.

I have now received the report and I wanted to make you aware of its recommendations. Briefly, NCHERM recommends that the College:

  • Enhance the understanding and cooperation between Campus Safety and the New London Police Department and establish appropriate roles for both when responding to critical incidents.
  • Develop de-escalation protocols in order to defuse potentially confrontational situations.
  • Clarify procedures and augment training for campus safety officers in dispatch, patrol, and critical incident response, including procedures on the appropriate use of force.

We have already taken a number of steps toward these goals. We met with the New London Police Department and city officials to make them aware of our culture of bystander intervention and our interest in having the best possible communication and coordination between our community and the police.

At the beginning of December, Roy Murphy was appointed interim senior director for Campus Safety to help implement a range of recommended improvements. He met last week with the Student Government Association and will work regularly with them next semester to discuss progress and gather feedback.

Finally, we will continue to welcome — and to heed — the good ideas of students and other members of our community in order to strengthen our approaches to this important work. Maintaining the safety of this College is our highest priority. I am grateful to Victor Arcelus, dean of students, and Rich Madonna, vice president for finance and administration, for their continuing efforts. You can expect to hear more about our progress in the New Year.

In the meantime, my best wishes for a successful end of semester.

Katherine Bergeron