On Friday, Oct. 20, the Board of Trustees will vote on a proposal to create a police department on the University of Dallas campus, according to Dr. John Plotts, Vice President of Student Affairs.
After the sale of Tower Village, the university added $125,000 to its security budget.
This money had previously been used to pay off-duty Irving police officers to patrol Tower Village for added security.
Since the university no longer owns the complex, it is looking for ways to reallocate those funds within the campus safety budget.
In 2016, the university voted to opt out of the Texas state law which allowed concealed handguns on college campuses.
In the wake of this decision, the administration is concerned about the level of protection on campus in the event of an armed threat, Plotts said.
The proposed police department would be combined with the current Campus Safety Office, with six police officers and six campus safety officers.
Police officers would respond to calls on campus, as well as adjacent properties like Tower Village and, in the future, the Enclave at Northgate housing development.
They would also be able to take action to enforce the speed limit on Northgate Drive.
CSO officers would retain many of their current duties, like securing athletic events.
Dallas police officers have been hired in the past for campus events like Groundhog and Oktoberfest, where alcohol is served.
The funds for this have historically come out of the budget for the event.
While the university could potentially save money by having their own officers at events, the university would have to pay them higher salaries than CSO officers, as well as overtime for event security.
If approved, the department would be located where the Student Leadership and Activities Center is currently.
The SALC would move to Upstairs Haggar along with other student organizations.
When they vote on Friday, the board will have to consider whether this decision is the best use of funds, as well as what impact the addition of a police station will have on a campus that prizes its tight-knit community.
“I’m really conflicted,” junior printmaking major Anna Fojut said. “I feel that I would be concerned [about] setting up a branch of the Irving police department here. It seems like it would be in a way violating what is a very private institution, but that might not be the case. If it were more money [spent] that would make no sense because it seems CSO is sufficient.”
A police presence on campus may concern students who have been affected by President Trump’s announcement of his intentions to roll back protections for Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
With the introduction of Texas Senate Bill 4, commanding officers cannot prevent police from asking detainees about their legal status. The Irving Police Department has a policy that requires any officer who asks a detainee about legal status to ask the same questions in all similar encounters, in order to prevent racial profiling.
Earlier this year, President Thomas Keefe issued an email to the student body explaining the university’s stance regarding this decision.
“As the President of the University of Dallas, I want to assure you all that the university will continue to support all of our students,” Keefe said in the email. “…We stand with our bishops in urging our representatives to establish a just and legal resolution of the standing of these young people. We offer support and prayers for these youth, their families, friends and colleagues.”
“Regarding DACA, I feel that campus security should be conscious and aware that we have undocumented students,” politics major Guadeloupe Torres said. “[They] should let them know that they’re safe and take measures to protect their rights too, and inform security about it.”
Meanwhile, a CSO officer who chose to remain anonymous shared his own view of the proposal.
“I have mixed feelings about it. I believe that it may be an expense that we really don’t need. I’m just trying to figure out what their function would be as opposed to what the current officers do.” the CSO officer said. “We’re not exactly a high crime campus like UNT [University of North Texas] or SMU [Southern Methodist University] where there would be a certain need for officers. But the biggest problem we’ve ever had here is maybe one student had a little too much beer to drink, and you know, that’s kind of to be expected.”
Mary Spencer and Valeria Reyna contributed to the reporting of this article.