Posted on behalf of authors Alexandra Utts and Kristina Norgard
St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Student Government Association (SGA) held a student speak out on Sept. 11 in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (MPOARC) Arena. The room was packed and students began voicing their concerns about the college. One of the concerns was about Public Safety on campus. A student spoke about how Public Safety on campus was impacted due to employees working long hours and being underpaid. The student stated, “They are already understaffed. There are six public safety members. So many people quit over the summer and we have yet to replace them. And now they’re being overworked. They’re working over 17 hours. They see us more than they see their families.”
Officer Turner has worked as a full-time dispatcher on SMCM’s Public Safety since 2010. Recently, he switched his position to officer due to the staff shortage. In the last two years, Public Safety has lost a number of officers, leaving them with seven total staff members in the field this fall semester. Turner remarked that the officers that have left recently have done so for personal reasons, not because of any single incident, situation or experience related to being employed with Public Safety at the College.
He expressed that it can be challenging to find people to work on the staff of Public Safety. The job requires a lot of dedication, commitment and time. This is especially true because Public Safety provides a constant service to the College and professionals that “can be stretched pretty thin even with a full staff.” He also made a point that there are some very positive aspects to the current Public Safety team on campus. He feels as though Public Safety currently has the most cohesive group they have ever had right now. They have employees on Public Safety that are alumni or staff that have worked on another part of campus. Turner attributes the great dynamic in part to this since these individuals know the campus and community so well.
In an email with Christopher Coons, assistant director of Public Safety at the College, it was made known that Public Safety has since “hired three new Officers who are currently in their field training.” Coons also noted that they “are currently hiring for two additional Officers and a full-time Dispatcher” and that “once those positions are filled [Public Safety] will be at full staff.”
The additional hiring of staff may reduce the overwork of current Public Safety staff and provide greater opportunity for work-life balance.
Members of Public Safety staff joined students and other SMCM employees in marching to Calvert Hall on Sept. 27 to demand a fairer contract for employees. Public Safety’s staff shortage was also a topic of discussion at the march as an example of staff shortages and hiring issues across campus. It’s evident that Public Safety and other SMCM employees are concerned with addressing the staffing challenges on campus and are willing to show up in order to enact those changes.