Tools Search Main Menu

Message from President Seligman on the Security Commission Report

Date:         September 8, 2016

To:             The University Community
From:        Joel Seligman
Re:            Security Commission Report      

The final report of the University Security Commission is now available for review and comment. You may access and download a PDF of the report on the Office of the President website.

This report is the result of nine months of research, review and serious discussion among many constituencies, both inside and outside our campus. Let me thank the Commission, under the leadership of Holly Crawford, Senior Vice President and CFO, for the thoroughness, care and consideration with which they addressed the charge I gave to them.

The Report contains several recommendations, including a recommendation to arm a limited number of sworn officers who serve on the Medical Center campus.

We are one University.  But we have multiple campuses.  And as Attachment 5 to the Security Commission Report details, the security concerns in the Medical Center, particularly in its Emergency Department, are quite different than they are elsewhere in our University.  Between 2013 and 2015, for example, an average of 230 knives, 8 guns and 33 other weapons were confiscated each year in the Medical Center.  In contrast, on all other University campuses combined, an average of 9 knives, 1 gun and 7 other weapons were confiscated each year between 2013 and 2015.

A priority for all at the University of Rochester is safety.  This not only means physical safety, but also takes into account that some in our community are concerned about the presence of armed officers on our campus.  It is a major change in our campus culture to arm our Department of Public Safety officers, even in the limited way recommended by the Commission.  I believe that the Security Commission Report is highly sensitive to the significance of this change, but it also recognizes that while our core River Campus generally is quite safe, parts of our University, as with many of our peer institutions, have had to take steps to deter threats to our students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors.  It is notable in the Security Commission Report that the University of Rochester is the only Association of American Universities campus with sworn officers that has no armed officers among the 60 AAU members.  Peer data from academic medical hospitals today finds that 19 out of 23 have at least some armed officers. Attachment 2 of the report provides more detail.

The Security Commission Report specifically recommends that given these data, extensive review of other data and several meetings with members of the University community:

  • Of our 180 Department of Public Safety Officers, none be armed for routine assignments on the Arts, Sciences and Engineering, Eastman, and all other non-Medical Center campuses.
  • Thirty-eight officers be armed in the Medical Center and Strong Memorial Hospital to address immediate safety concerns in the Emergency Department on a three-shift-a-day, 24-hour basis and to provide one mobile patrol unit to patrol the exterior of the Medical Center.
  • The four senior officers of the Department of Public Safety – specifically the Chief, Deputy Chief, Patrol Commander and Commander of Investigations – would be armed at all times, including when visiting the Arts, Sciences and Engineering and Eastman School of Music campuses on a routine basis.  These officers would be expected to respond to any serious and potentially life threatening situation as rapidly as possible.  It is notable that as effective as our working relationships today are with the Rochester City Police and other local police departments, there is inevitably a time lapse between reporting of an incident and response.  In emergency circumstances, the time of response can be a critical matter.
  • No Department of Public Safety officer would be armed before additional rigorous screening and training, including training in topics such as bias and diversity and de-escalation of situations without weapons deployment. 
  • The Security Commission also recommends a review of these recommendations, if implemented, in five years, similar to the five-year review that the Security Commission Report just performed on the 2011 Security Commission rule adoptions. 

It is my intention to offer all in our University community the opportunity to comment on this Report electronically by sending an email to me at president@rochester.edu.  I will read each email.  To encourage candor, all submissions will be in confidence.  Please forward all communications by noon, September 23.

I also will participate in town hall meetings on the River Campus on September 12 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Interfaith Chapel, the Medical Center on September 12 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Adolph Auditorium (1-7619), and the Eastman School of Music on September 13 from noon until 1:00 p.m. in the Ray Wright Room (ESM120).

Let me emphasize that I will read and listen to all who submit their views before any final decision is made on this report. No decision has been made to date. Thank you for your consideration.