This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

FSEC hears campus safety, graduate education reports

Published: February 10, 2005

Contributing Editor

How many light posts does it take to illuminate the two UB campuses?

More than 10,000 across the North and South campuses, with plans to add directional spotlights to many of them, according to John Grela, director of public safety.

Grela, who also is chair of the Personal Safety Committee, reported on the panel's activities during yesterday's meeting of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, along with Marilyn McMann Kramer, head of the Cataloging Department for University Libraries Central Technical Services, the senate's faculty representative to the committee.

Lighting recently has been upgraded along Putnam Way on the North Campus and plans are in place to increase lighting at all four crosswalks along Augspurger Road as a way to increase safety and visibility for pedestrians, Grela told the FSEC.

Kramer reported that students have complained to the committee that many of the light posts have burned-out bulbs, but she explained that in some areas, every other light has been turned off to conserve energy.

"There's a tension between the need for an aggressive lighting campaign versus trying to work on energy-savings issues," Kramer said.

When Grela described a proposal to decrease lighting in some areas of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the South Campus, Samuel D. Schack, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, College of Arts and Sciences, objected strongly.

"This is something that has been objected to before and it's just plain wrong," Schack said. "First of all, in a campus where you claim you want to be 24/7, then you'd damn well better be prepared to make it secure and make people feel secure. If you want to have evening classes, if you want to have researchers in their offices evenings and weekends, then you make them feel safe and you make them be safe."

The campuses now also have a total of 54 "blue light" phones, with 15 added in the past six years, including those placed in the Ellicott parking lots, according to Grela. Each phone costs $4,200, and with trench digging required to reach existing phone lines, the per-phone cost can run as high as $9,000, he added.

Grela also distributed the annual safety report produced by University Police. The 2004 report shows an increase in the number of on-campus robberies, from 7 to 13, between 2002 and 2003, as well as a doubling in the number of aggravated assaults on campus, from 6 to 12, in that time frame.

"I'm unhappy that the armed robberies went up, but we've had an increase of problems on the Main Street campus as a result of neighborhood problems in the University Heights area," Grela said.

When asked how many university police officers there are, he responded by saying there is a total of 45 patrol officers, with nine officers working each shift. He added that there are four police cars patrolling on each campus at any given time.

"We're a professional police department; we're not overly aggressive. But we respond to the calls quickly," he said.

The number of overall crime reports at UB decreased between 2003 and 2004, Grela told the Reporter, from 1,474 in 2003 to 1,365, while the number of arrests increased, from 147 in 2003 to 190—a record high—in 2004. When compared to campuses of similar size that, like UB, are members of the Association of American Universities, or "peer institutions, we're in the lower half" in terms of crimes reported and arrests made, he added.

Grela also spoke about other responsibilities of the Personal Safety Committee and University Police, including posting alerts to inform the campus community about recent crimes in the area, and upgrading fire safety equipment on both campuses. The response to fire alarms on campus is "less than five minutes," he said.

In other business at yesterday's meeting, Bruce D. McCombe, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, reported on his office's priorities for the coming year.

McCombe began by thanking another guest at the meeting, Satish K. Tripathi, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, for working to increase stipends paid to most graduate teaching assistants by $2,000.

McCombe, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics, College of Arts and Sciences, said he plans to reinstate program reviews for undergraduate and graduate programs, beginning this fall, and to assess the postdoctoral programs throughout the university.

"We need to look at mentoring people at the postdoctoral level. First, we need to assess how many we have, where they are working and what they're being paid," McCombe said. "Then we will look into what can be done to enhance the quality and number of postdoctoral positions."

To accomplish this, McCombe said he will recommend creating an office within the Graduate School for postdoctoral faculty at UB.

"As a university, we're becoming more and more dependent on postdoctorals to carry out various aspects of our research programs," McCombe said. "If I compare us with other institutions, we don't have enough postdoctoral positions and if we're going to have more, then we need to have some place at UB where they will have a representative body."