Audra Berends, reporter
Ashley Moreno, editor
MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – Berry College police and administration make intentional efforts to improve campus safety each year.
Campus safety predominately revolves around prevention of danger to students. Gary Will, Assistant Vice President for Campus Safety and Land Management, works on implementing preventative measures and technologies on campus. One of these measures is called the “BerryALERT” system, which is a text messaging service for emergencies that works on an opt-in, opt-out basis.
The participation of phone users in BerryALERT has dramatically increased over the years and currently sits at 97% according to Will. The texting system is in place to quickly alert students of a threat on campus or an announcement regarding safety. BerryALERT is written up and sent out from the office of Gary Will, who is passionate about the program.
“It’s the quickest, furthest reaching communication effort we have in reaching as many people as we can at one time,” Will said.
Berry College also implements the use of outdoor sirens, which are tested once a month and used to alert students of an emergency. Will hopes to upgrade all the fire alarm systems in the buildings and connect the audio to the indoor speakers of the buildings.
In 2021, the Student Government Association brought forth concerns about lighting on campus. In response, the streetlights on the Road of Remembrance were moved closer to the sidewalk for better visibility for pedestrians. Lights for pedestrians in place around the roundabout are currently not in use but are in the progress of being fixed. Will said if students have a concern about safety, he and others in charge will be willing to listen.
Campus safety also works to advocate for and protect students from sexual misconduct through Title IX, which Lindsay Norman, Associate Dean of Students, is responsible for.
Norman recently became the “head of Title IX” in July of 2022. Title IX is a law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded schools, which covers a broad scope of sexual offenses. She explained that the first step for students potentially seeking help with a Title IX allegation is to contact her and she will try to respond within 24 hours. Then, she will work with the student to help them decide to make a formal report or just supportive measures, like a no contact order.
When asked about campus safety, Norman gave her opinion on whose responsibility it is. “I think it’s a comprehensive effort that everyone in the community has to take part in, even our students,” Norman said. “It’s a job that everyone must contribute to.”
Another key part of safety on campus is the Berry Police Department. They manage ID cards, gate entry, car decals, camera surveillance, stolen items, car accidents and other everyday preventative patrol duties. Currently, the department is short-staffed and has nine officers. One of the larger duties of the police force is to aid in safety for large events. They will spend weeks before an event mapping out the traffic flow and making sure the roads are safe. For Mountain Day 2022, police chief Ryan Chesley hired ten Floyd County officers to help spread the force out over the campus.
The Berry Police also run the gate system and have license plate recognition technology installed to capture car tag data. While Berry can have 14,000 visitors a month, the requirement of showing ID to get onto campus continues to keep the campus safe.
Chesley encourages students to help keep campus safe by locking their room and car doors and minimizing opportunities for people to steal. Chesley explained that the police undertake harder jobs like giving out tickets and disciplining students, but value students’ well-being above everything else.
“Public opinion has not been favorable to law enforcement for quite some time, and it makes it challenging for the officers who are out there truly motivated to help and motivated to do good things,” Chesley said. “If I could say one thing, I just want the students to know that we’re here to help them and we’re here as a resource.”
Despite the constant efforts to keep campus safe, students believe there are some improvements that could be made or are in process. Lighting is still a concern on campus that is talked about frequently. Lindsay Norman is working with other administration to change the ID card system as part of a multimillion-dollar project, which will take a few years.
While many campus safety protocols were addressed in this article, the Clery Report, which can be found on the Berry College website, contains everything involved in keeping the campus safe. It explains all the different methods and protocols involved, while also including crime reports. Campus safety is important at Berry College, and it aims to continue to improve and grow in new ways.