Vice President for Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson and Dept. of Public Safety Chief Carey Drayton held a meeting Tuesday regarding campus safety and health, addressing issues including student health concerns, crime near campus and DPS operations.
Though crime has decreased over the last several years, student use of counseling services for mental health has increased since 2003 by more than 6,000 cases per year, and in the 2011 USC American College Health Association “National College Health Assessment Report” concerning graduate students, stress was reported as the top health concern affecting academic performance, Jackson said.
He said focusing on these and other health and safety problems will create a healthier community.
“Sometimes students are in crisis … our responsibility in Student Affairs is to resolve those crises,” Jackson said. “We’re concerned about supporting students in all their activities at USC.”
Claudio Tarchi, a freshman majoring in music industry, said handling stress is something students should cope with.
“USC is definitely a stressful place,” Tarchi said. “It should be on the student, though, to be responsible with their time.”
While Jackson primarily focused on student health, Drayton discussed the issue of crime on campus.
Drayton said, although crime has decreased since 2006, he hopes to reduce the current crime rate by continuing to implement DPS initiatives that make catching culprits easier.
DPS currently controls 72 video cameras, 49 license recognition cameras and more than 500 alarms across campus. DPS uses these tools in its campaign to “minimize the spaces,” which involves using DPS resources to reduce areas in which crime is possible to prevent law breaking before it even occurs, Drayton said.
Drayton said this pre-emptive strategy is more effective in reducing crime in the long term than responding to crime reports, and crime prevention should be a partnership between law enforcement and students.
“Safety and security is a shared responsibility,” Drayton said. “DPS has the responsibility to keep students safe — students have the responsibility to report potential problems to make officers’ jobs easier.”
Students had mixed feelings about the efforts of DPS and Student Affairs to keep students safe and satisfy their health needs. Riss Emond, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, said USC seems more focused on increasing efficiency and improving academic performance than improving student health.
“The administration doesn’t appear to have the same interests as students in regards to safety,” Emond said. “The university is spending a lot of time and money chasing after stolen bikes, while bigger issues like sexual assaults sometimes go uninvestigated.”
Chris Gebert, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering and computer science, said it’s comforting seeing DPS on campus.
“DPS does a good job,” Gebert said. “It’s always nice when it’s late and you see a DPS car drive by.”
Jackson and Drayton said they are optimistic that their departments’ initiatives will make USC both safer and healthier for students.
“Victims of crime [at USC] have been steadily going down in the last several years,” Jackson said. “The key for me is that we create a community of respect.”