Students returning to Metropolitan State University for fall semester can expect several changes related to campus security. Because multiple assaults occurred on campus grounds over the summer, Metro State is required to report them and review safety protocols. Yet many modifications to security operations were underway before these assaults happened.
Chief Financial Officer Tracy Hatch identified campus security as a priority since arriving at Metro State nearly eighteen months ago.
Hatch designed a plan to restructure several departments in an effort to prioritize safety and security on campus.
“I really feel like, for this institution, we need at least a person dedicated and focused on safety and emergency management activities…and so that was really the impetus for the restructure,” she said.
According to Hatch, former Director of Public Safety and Auxiliary Services, Thomas Maida, had too many tasks competing for his time and attention. Maida oversaw safety and security, emergency management, parking, ergonomics and the mailroom.
However, shifting responsibilities resulting from the restructure eliminated the position of director of public safety and auxiliary services because it no longer met the supervisory requirements of the Middle Management Association (MMA).
Hatch elaborated by saying, “Thomas was no longer a supervisor because he would have no one to supervise. Because he was in the MMA bargaining unit, there was no way for me to remove the other functions, leave him with one function and allow him to still be in that position.”
Maida was not opposed to the restructure, according to Hatch. “He even said he couldn’t argue with anything. He really felt like it was the right thing as well, even though he was negatively impacted,” she said.
Maida left Metro State around the same time that the new organizational structure went into effect on July 1. The Metropolitan requested an interview with Maida for this story, but he declined.
Metro State’s new Interim Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Jason Fellows has been in the security industry for twelve years. He described his career trajectory by saying, “[I] started moving up in the contracted world to a site supervisor, account manager, operations manager, national assistant, and then general manager. And then the dream was always to find that internal security director position.”
Previously the area manager for American Security, Fellows oversaw accounts with Macalester College, Minneapolis International School and Metro State.
Changing of the guard
Perhaps the most visible change over the summer has been the new faces of security personnel around campus.
Metro State uses contractor services for security officers rather than employing them in-house. Hatch noted several advantages to contracted security.
“We have a lot of flexibility. If we have a spike in activity or we have a special event, I can get additional officers here very quickly. We get most or all of the benefits and not as much of the hands-on management of it,” she said
When the fiscal year ended on July 1, so did Metro State’s contract with American Security. Instead of renewing their agreement with American, Hatch and other university officials made the decision to hire a new firm: G4S Security.
The process of selecting a security company is very structured and laid out in statute. “We need to make sure that we have open, fair, competitive bidding, so it’s quite a process,” stated Hatch.
The selection committee had representatives from various campus departments including safety, facilities and student life. The committee independently scored proposals submitted by security companies and passed their recommendation of G4S to Hatch, the provost and the chief human resource officer.
A new security contractor often means a large turnover in personnel. Individual officers may not want to go through the process of getting hired by a whole new company.
For this reason, Hatch said it was not intended that all American Security officers would stay on the Metro State account. “An [American Security] employee at any time could have applied for G4S. There was never any prohibition about that,” she added.
Metro State officials encouraged a few American Security officers to switch to G4S, so they could remain on campus. “What we were really looking for though was a small number that we heard repeated comments about the importance of that particular individual staying because of either the way they work with a certain population or their knowledge base,” Hatch said.
As for the rest of the American Security personnel that the university didn’t contact directly? Hatch has no complaints. “I don’t have anything but positive things to say about them,” she added.
While still contracted with American Security, Metro State added an account manager position to facilitate collaboration between the university and the security company.
Tony Hansen held this position for American Security, and G4S hired him in the same capacity after the contractor switch in July. “[the reason Tracy, Thomas and Jason liked me for the job was] the human resources background, the specialization within mental health and having a well rounded security professional background… and specialization in training and development,” he said.
According to Hansen, nearly all of the G4S officers have prior work experience in higher education security.
Fellows explained the role of campus security by saying, “We’re not here to be cops, but we are here to protect.”