Andrew Fresh Courtesy of the Willamette Website
At the end of a 35 year career as Willamette’s Campus Safety Director, Ross Stout left large shoes to fill. Though we won’t be seeing a massive revamping of the overall system anytime soon, it’s safe to say that Andrew Fresh understands the challenges that will come with being the new Campus Safety Director.
“There is institutional knowledge that is gained over a 35 year career with Ross and that is something that can’t be taught out of a book,” he said. Fresh also noted that every location has its own quirks and difficulties. So long as he goes in expecting them, they shouldn’t be too hard to manage.
Fresh comes into the job with a vast array of tools he plans to utilize. “I’m bringing my own institutional knowledge from the outside,” Fresh claimed, and with a 20 year career in various law enforcement positions—including the FBI and the DEA—he’ll be drawing from a lot of experience.
Fresh hasn’t made any sweeping changes so far, and that’s for good reason. As he believes, “in any type of new environment, there should be a 90 day soak time” at the very least. He’s been spending the past months identifying problems and places for improvement, hoping that he’ll more clearly be able to understand what needs fixing before jumping in too hastily. “The last thing I want to do is come in and make immediate changes until I’ve had a chance to observe and see what needs to be fixed, if anything.”
One thing he has been working toward is a stronger network of security blanketing the local Willamette University area. With the Capitol Building right across the street and Salem Health only a short walk down the road, it makes sense that the three important complexes should work together to solve the issues confronting them—many of which are the same. By not treating each location as an individual entity, Fresh hopes to form a “synergistic relationship” that will benefit everyone.
Fresh also said that he’s enjoyed Willamette’s culture and that everyone has been welcoming. He has felt a sense of freedom in the new position, as Willamette has been very accommodating of his plans for implementing new programs and strategies in the future. “There are always places for continuous improvement,” he said, and with the authority to make alterations, Campus Safety can keep moving forward in the right ways.
Improving is important, especially when problems lurk around every corner, often when you least expect it. Fresh hopes to increase awareness of the various measures we can all take to keep ourselves and our belongings safe. Campus Safety will use what resources it can, but “there is nobody more responsible for a person’s security than themselves,” he emphasized. One potential change he hopes to establish in the near future is a public safety awareness campaign through weekly updates or something similar. Remembering to lock doors is a good start, but staying safe on campus goes beyond that; it takes conscious effort to avoid danger. If people ignore the safety measures already established, then bad things can happen.
A public safety awareness campaign would also allow Fresh to aspire to an important ideal of his, keeping Campus Safety “student facing and student focused.” He believes that there should always be open avenues of discussion between students and security officers and invites student groups that have questions to come in and speak about their issues. Not only are there opportunities for solutions to arise from such a meeting, but more importantly it can achieve a mutual understanding between Campus Safety and the student body.
It’s no secret that when people talk about Campus Safety, it tends not to be in the most positive light. Fresh understands this, but also asks that students keep in mind that “whether it be security or public safety in general, unfortunately our interactions have to do with a negative event which has impacted someone’s life.” When a Campus Safety officer provides assistance in painful circumstances such as an assault, burglary or theft, there is an automatic negative association that’s likely to leave a bad memory. It’s important to remember that the officer was not at fault for the initial problem, though. Campus Safety responds as they can and deals with the policies and procedures they are allowed to work within. Fresh added that even if there might be things they’d like to do differently, they either lack the necessary resources or are limited by formerly established policies.
As a final thought, Fresh wants to remind students that Campus Safety provides a multitude of services at Willamette, beyond security on its own. Many are likely aware of the officers’ ability to assist you when you’re locked out of a dorm, but if you ever feel unsafe, they are available to escort individuals across campus during the night as well. A Campus Safety officer is never too far away on Willamette’s grounds—even through potentially short-staffed hours, response times have remained quite fast. Even handling 30-35 different calls in a day,Fresh and the entirety of Campus Safety will strive to maintain a “service-related mindset” in everything that they do.