Debra Born, News Editor
Utica College recently won funding for campus security improvements through a grant from the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program. The college was awarded almost $313,000 to spend on new security technology for the campus.
The grant will assist the college in purchasing access control technology, a new cybersecurity firewall, security cameras, improved lighting campus wide, exterior and interior emergency alert systems and many other security-related items.
The grant already allowed Campus Safety to improve camera coverage in parking lots and interior locations across campus. It also provided Campus Safety officers with other technology to assist them in doing the job of keeping UC safe.
Students, faculty and staff will soon be issued a new UC identification card with enhanced safety features. The college invested in better lighting on walking pathways and roadways, an improvement students requested. In addition, several new emergency blue-light phones have been installed.
“Improved surveillance cameras in parking lots, roadways and interior buildings were identified by students as an area for improvement and those investments have been made and will continue to be made,” said Shad Crowe, director of emergency management.
A new access control system is being installed to allow the campus to be secured remotely at the first indication of a threat or danger. The improved emergency alert technology will notify students both on and off-campus of potential danger or emergencies.
“When all safety and security enhancements are completed and implemented, there will be no comparison to UC’s safety preparedness five years ago,” Crowe said. “The improvements and changes have increased preparedness at Utica College far beyond the levels of previous years.”
The grantee provides $300 million statewide in matching grants to finance capital projects and equipment purchases by private colleges across New York State. UC had to provide proof of safety and security spending to win funding. The grant matches a percentage of those monies used for safety and security capital investments.
“Lighting, cameras, access control, blue-lights, and IITS technology enhancements, and many other initiatives that were spearheaded by President Casamento qualified UC to compete for the HECAP Grant money,” Crowe said.
One of the areas the grantee sought to award was high technology projects that would enhance the student life and safety at the college, according to Crowe.
“UC was among many colleges statewide that showed a commitment to enhancing safety and security of the institution for the betterment of the academic experience community wide,” Crowe said.
While $300 million sounds like a lot of money, every private institution in New York State was eligible to apply for the grant. There are more than 177 private institutions in the state, with many smaller institutions that were not listed also eligible.
Crowe’s statement begs the question—why did UC beat out so many colleges in winning the funding for security?
“UC demonstrated a commitment to investing in safety and security technology to provide a safer environment for students, faculty and staff,” Crowe said.
The award was also due to the skill of the grant writer, Amy Lindner, who is the college’s assistant vice president for advancement and chief grants officer.
“Lindner was the brilliant mind who completed the application for the grant,” Crowe said. “She is an amazingly talented grant writer who Utica College is very, very fortunate to have.”
Expenditures for projects designed to improve safety and security are very considerable, according to Crowe. The funding will give UC capacity to expand the safety initiative on a faster timetable.
Students commented on security improvements, the current safety environment on campus and the importance of strong campus security.
“I feel like Campus Safety protects our community,” said Alli Dwyer, who is in her second year of the Physical Therapy doctorate program. “We are our own community within the larger community.”
Dwyer said she feels “pretty safe” on campus, but she still takes precautions.
“I usually call someone when I’m walking to my car at night,” she said.
The safety patrol cars around campus are a visual reminder to students of the level of security that Campus Safety provides.
“Their presence on campus is definitely seen,” cybersecurity sophomore Luke Minerva said.
Students are interested in learning about campus safety because it indirectly affects them.
“If we stay here, we should feel safe,” said Vanessa Wanxia Li, international junior studying criminal justice at UC. “We stay here for a long time without family, so of course safety is very important to us.”
Feeling safe on campus is important to students at UC.
“This is essentially our home and if we can’t feel safe here it wouldn’t be the best environment to be,” Minerva said.
Minerva said he feels safe on campus because a small incident reminded him of the fast responsiveness of UC’s Campus Safety.
“Recently one of my friends had someone come up to him asking for money in the parking lot, and he called Campus Safety and they responded immediately,” he said.
Students also cited safety as crucial to feeling “at home” on campus.
“Being safe allows you to be comfortable,” said Occupational Therapy graduate student Ken Robinson. “You feel like you belong here and don’t have to look over your shoulder.”
Robinson said Campus Safety does not make their contact information clear to students and that he does not know their phone number. However, security is often patrolling on campus, which makes Robinson feel safe.
“I think at night there are lights everywhere,” Robinson said. “You never feel like you’re walking in the dark.”
It is important to keep security up-to-date, according to Robinson. Many students support the new swipe card readers the grant funding will enable.
“I think it would be a great improvement,” Robinson said. “I like the idea. I think it would provide more safety to students.”
Dwyer said the swipe card readers will allow the college to keep track of who is accessing the buildings.
“I think more swipe card readers are a great idea,” Dwyer said. “You can never be too safe. Most of us have our ID with us all the time, anyway.”
The recent grant award is important to students because the funding will allow the college to continue to improve campus security at a faster pace.
“All of the investments identified directly affect the Campus Safety mission of safety and security at UC,” Crowe said.