John Applegate, Executive Vice President of University Academic Affairs at Indiana University, discussed the complex role and responsibilities of both university police and the superintendent of public safety before the January, 2017 swearing-in of Superintendent of Public Safety Benjamin Hunter.
I am stating the obvious when I say that universities depend on safe campus environments -- environments where students know that they can walk across campus safely, where parents know that their sons and daughters can participate actively in the wide range of activities that our campuses provide, and where faculty and staff can concentrate on the important work before them, rather than looking over their shoulders for lurking dangers.
This sounds simple, but Indiana University as a whole is very large and incorporates a wide range of environments -- from IU Bloomington’s 2,000-acre footprint with campus housing for 13,000; to the vibrant urban setting of IUPUI; and to the five regional campuses embedded in diverse communities across the state. So public safety for Indiana University is extremely complex when you have to turn vision into reality.
In fact, considering this university’s 114,000 students; its hundreds of buildings, residence halls, thoroughfares, stadiums, museums, and theaters; and its more than 200 uniformed officers -- IU is in many ways more like a city than a university. In fact, in terms of population, if IU were a city, it would be the fourth largest in Indiana (with perhaps a higher number of Birkenstocks per capita). And we serve, I like to say, an unusually young, healthy, and rambunctious population.
As a result, the position of IU’s superintendent of public safety requires a particular kind of expertise that goes beyond the size of the school. Law enforcement and public safety on a university campus constitute a special kind of balancing act.
Universities give students -- many for the first time -- the experience of living independently in a free society. As one of democracy’s core values, freedom is integral to the university experience. But we must all understand and appreciate the limits -- legal and social -- of freedom and the importance of personal responsibility and integrity.
Exploration, creativity, and innovation thrive in an inclusive, caring, flexible, and safe environment. They do not thrive in chaos; they do not thrive when people feel unsafe. And so, the role of university police is to provide the safe, inclusive, caring and flexible environment necessary for our students to explore their new freedom and experience the best that college has to offer.
Successful policing and public safety on a university campus, then, requires a balanced program of thoughtful policy development that promotes measured law enforcement, effective public information, skilled de-escalation, compassionate mediation -- and most of all, the judgment to know when to engage each of these interventions.
Thus, the position of superintendent of public safety at IU calls for a seasoned leader who has traveled many avenues and alleys of policing and public safety, from beat cop, to campus law enforcement, to government service, to university administration. Benjamin Hunter has all of that experience.
Ensuring public safety of a university as sprawling and varied as the seven IU-managed campuses also requires intensive coordination with local jurisdictions and state government. These partnerships extend far beyond on-street parking enforcement and crowd control on football weekends, but also include policy development and safety protocols specific to each campus. This calls for a mature understanding of governance as both public service and public duty.
Here, too, Ben’s experience in just about every aspect of public safety, from engaging with students and citizens at the street level, to managing police officers, to judicious policy planning and engaging in city government, puts Indiana University, its students, staff and faculty, and their communities in very capable hands.
Ben follows a superb first superintendent of public safety in Jerry Minger, and a remarkable interim superintendent in Bob True. They have built and sustained a strong foundation. We all look forward to Ben’s leadership, as we move forward into a new era.