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Beyond the News

Government Safety Center Causing a Stir

University Business, July/August 2012

The House and Senate have been working to come to an agreement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012. If passed, the House version of legislation will give the director for the office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) within the Department of Justice the authority to establish a National Center for Campus Public Safety.

The goal of the center would be to identify and disseminate best practices specific to campus safety, as well as offer training and educational opportunities and protocols to respond to emergencies. It would promote developing threat assessment models, as well as coordinate campus safety research.

“Hand in hand with that, it would help to increase collaboration and consistency in prevention efforts,” says Alison Kiss, executive director of Security on Campus. “If you look at stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence, this issue [of violence against women] is an epidemic.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Educations (FIRE) has spoken out against the center’s creation.  “However well-intentioned those aims might be, FIRE’s years of experience defending college student and faculty rights demonstrate that ‘threat assessment’ programs often abuse their power by monitoring, censoring, and punishing the peaceful speech of students and faculty members,” the organization’s leaders wrote in a statement.

Kiss, who supports the center’s creation, disagrees.

“I see the center as more of serving as a clearing house and providing funding,” she says. “We deal a lot as a non-profit with campus public safety agencies and campus police who are struggling to meet some of the requirements of federal or state laws. This may offer them an opportunity to apply for funding and not reinvent the wheel [in terms of best practices]. There’s nothing in there that would take any kind of control away from them.”