September 27, 2022
As the academic year gets underway, the University of Washington’s public campuses are again bustling and busy with students, faculty, staff and visitors. While the focus is on academics, research, learning and building community, on any given day, there may be safety challenges and individuals who feel unsafe for any number of reasons.
Some of the systemic problems within the very institutions ostensibly designed to keep people safe were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and further thrust into the spotlight by 2020’s mass protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
More than two years later, faculty, staff and students continue to come together to reenvision how the UW can best build and maintain a safe community — including addressing racism and bringing about long-term change.
Against this backdrop, UW President Ana Mari Cauce launched a long-term effort to reimagine safety across the university. Starting Sept. 28, the university’s key safety programs — SafeCampus, UW Emergency Management and the UW Police Department (Seattle campus) — will operate through a single division for better coordination, responsiveness and leadership accountability.
A community of the UW’s size and complexity — three campuses in Washington and numerous medical facilities, all with public and private spaces including classrooms, research labs and residences, and all in an earthquake- and flood-prone region — requires a range of personal and facility safety services.
Critically, a holistic approach to safety and preparedness must be responsive to different service needs across the whole of the UW — like crime prevention, crisis response, personal resiliency plans and innovation in unarmed interventions — as well as to the different experiences, including negative, that some people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have had with police.
To bring this initial reimagining and reorganizing work to life, President Cauce asked Sally Clark to serve as the Interim Vice President for Campus & Community Safety. Clark, a former Seattle City Council member, is the Director of Regional & Community Relations, and has decades of experience addressing complex issues by bringing together a diverse range of constituents. UW News sat down with Clark to talk about how campus leaders are prioritizing this work. The below conversation has been edited for clarity.
What does advancing safety across the UW mean?
Sally Clark: We know that people thrive when they feel safe, and that includes feeling they belong. From there, they can be the best student, researcher, staff person, professor or medical professional. Creating that community of safety starts with emergency preparedness, creating safe spaces, doing our best to work upstream to prevent issues, and deploying the most appropriate response to people in crisis or crime victims.
The work of the new Campus & Community Safety division is to think holistically about everything, including earthquakes and natural disaster preparedness, violence prevention and personal safety plans, mental health support, maintaining safety during games at Husky Stadium and more — all while trying to respond to each incident in a way that respects individuals and communities.
We know we have work to do to undo systemic oppression and create a sense of belonging for all people at the UW. That means we’re engaged in both listening and speaking with a number of student, staff and faculty groups, as well as working with communities around the UW to ensure all people are given respect, and ultimately, we achieve the goal of community safety.
How to get help:
UW resources to help if you’re in crisis or experiencing an emergency:
Dial 911 for emergencies or to report a crime.
Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 if you or someone you know needs support.
The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available by texting or calling 988.
When someone on a campus needs emergency help — if they are experiencing a crisis, medical need, or have been a crime victim — how do they summon help and who will…
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