After nearly two decades at Utica College, Director of Campus Safety Wayne Sullivan will be retiring on Aug. 31.
Prior to UC, Sullivan worked at Prudential Financial as a principal investigator for 23 years, primarily serving as a watchdog over insurance transactions between the company and its clients in the central New York area. He then opted for an early retirement from Prudential before deciding to take a position with the Office of Campus Safety.
While Sullivan never held a formal law enforcement position before, he was hired as a night sergeant by Campus Safety. He explained his previous job taught him important skills, including how to conduct criminal investigations and “read people.” Sullivan was quickly promoted to a captain’s position, which he held for nine years, before being promoted to director of Campus Safety in 2011.
“It’s been very educational [working at Utica College],” Sullivan said. “The part I love most about it is watching young people come in, not really knowing what they want and stumbling along the way, [but then seeing them grow as individuals].”
Throughout his tenure at UC, Sullivan said he has “seen a lot of things” and presided over several major safety events — chief among them was last year’s lockdown, which started after Campus Safety received anonymous threats that someone was armed with a gun inside Gordon Science Center.
Without any weapons, Sullivan and another officer rushed to the academic buildings on March 5, 2018, without any concern for who was waiting in the academic buildings and whether or not they were actually armed.
“If it happened again today, we’d probably do the same thing,” Sullivan said.
While ensuring safety on campus has been his top priority as director of Campus Safety, Sullivan said it has been “the little things,” such as helping students, that have made the job worth it to him.
“We have very good, respectable people who come here and grow up to become our future — that’s what makes everything shine for me,” he said.
As Sullivan completes his final four months on the job, a small committee led by Director of Emergency Management Shad Crowe has already begun searching for Utica College’s next Campus Safety director.
The seven people comprising the Campus Safety director search committee include members of each major constituency at UC. By involving students, faculty and staff, Crowe said he is hoping to ensure that each group receives equal representation and input during the candidate interview process.
“I’m hearing a lot of great ideas about what we can do to improve the things that go on in within this office (Campus Safety),” Crowe said.
But beyond just experience in safety and higher education, Crowe explained UC’s next Campus Safety director must have an ability to connect and relate with UC’s diverse student body.
Establishing relationships with students is reflected in the position’s list of required skills, he said, and will be a crucial part of the next director’s job — especially in the aftermath of last month’s confrontation between students and Campus Safety officers during an emergency situation in Strebel. Since the incident, students have voiced concerns over inconsistent and racially biased policing practices by Campus Safety officers.
“Diversity and inclusion training, experience with other cultures and races, is so important for this candidate,” Crowe said. “We’ve got some wounds and we need to pay attention to them and do some real work to help heal.”
According to the job requirements posted on UC’s hiring portal, candidates for Campus Safety director must demonstrate the following: (1) a record of diversity and inclusion training; (2) a commitment to “delivering safety services in an equitable, cooperative and inclusive manner” within a diverse community; (3) an ability to effectively work with “diverse communities and the broadest range of constituents on campus.”
Sophomore Michenelle Delille, who witnessed the March 1 Strebel incident, is the student representative on the Campus Safety director search committee.
Delille explained that the ideal candidate for the position should be able to navigate high-pressure safety situations but also have the ability to connect with students so that they feel more comfortable with Campus Safety — which starts by being “genuine and nice.”
“There are Campus Safety officers who will walk by and it kind of seems like they are above us,” Delille said. “They do have more authority than us, but at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. They just kind of have a cocky attitude, and that creates a gap because it makes it seem like they think they’re above talking to us.”
In her role as a committee member, Delille has been focused on talking to students from different backgrounds about what attributes they want to see in UC’s next director of Campus Safety. With all the feedback that her and members of the committee have gathered, she is confident that UC is taking “everything into consideration,” including the concerns of minority students.
“For some of us, this is our home away from home, so we need to feel comfortable in the environment we’re going to be [living in] for a long time,” she said. “[The community] needs to feel comfortable that Campus Safety knows the job that they have to get done.”
Crowe said that the committee is close to making a shortlist of candidates from the approximately 15 applicants who have interviewed. Once the list is formed, the remaining candidates will be invited to campus to participate in open forums with students.
The forums, Crowe confirmed, will most likely take place from May 1-3 and give students an opportunity to ask candidates any questions they want.
“I don’t think they (candidates for the director position) are going to have a choice but to answer those tough questions [about race relations],” Crowe said. “And they are tough, but I fully expect candidates to be prepared for them. These are tough times, but we need to grind our way through these difficult questions. Are we ever going to answer them fully? Probably not, but we have to try and do something to improve our relations across all cultures on this campus.”