Community speaks on campus public safety

Margolis Healy, the external consulting firm tasked with a comprehensive assessment of Portland State campus safety as a result of the fatal shooting of Jason Washington by campus police, began its work with nine listening forums occuring Oct. 30–Nov. 1.

Meetings with different stakeholders on campus will take place over the next two weeks, after which Margolis Healy will begin compiling an initial draft of its report. That process should take approximately six weeks, according to statements by the firm.

The final draft of the report will be provided to university administration.

“I believe, based on the call I had, it is the university’s intention for every work product that we produce to be made available to the campus community,” said Steven Healy, CEO of Margolis Healy. He said he didn’t know exactly in which form or medium they will be made available.

Below are comments made by faculty, students, staff and community members during the listening forums.


“We are campus safety and security consultants; that’s what we will look at. Insomuch as we find indications or evidence of institutional racism within the policies, procedures and practices of the campus public safety office, we will call them out.” –Steven Healy, Margolis Healy CEO

“We know there is a lot of distrust about this process. What we are here to do tonight is earn your trust by listening to your concerns, hearing those and moving forward.” –Christiane Hurt, Margolis Healy

“I’ll say what I said with the conversation before the former president of the university chose to arm the campus safety officers: It was a solution looking for a problem…What I said before and what I believe now is there is less chance of death by firearm on our campus if officers do not have arms.” –Gina Greco, Professor of French; Chair, World Languages and Literatures

“I’ve had conferences on this campus where students of color were harassed by campus police, and so they don’t feel safe, ever.” –Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland City Council Candidate

“I’ve been at PSU for 20 years, and I have never felt unsafe here. Our campus has grown enormously over the years. We do have times in classrooms where we have disruptive students. And now, we don’t have any immediate way of getting assistance with that other than calling campus safety—and someone comes in armed. I’ve had conversations with the chief of police about this, and right now they don’t have the capacity to change that.” –Virginia Butler, Professor and Chair of Anthropology Department

“I’ve been on campus since 2004 as a student and then also as an employee. I’m not going to speak for the whole community; I’m going to speak for my personal experiences and maybe some stories I’ve heard from people, but I’m at a point where I would not call CPSO because every time I’ve called I feel the issue I had has not really fully been addressed. I’m also going to say I’ve seen CPSO walking down the street and they make a point of saying hi to me. I think at times with the community they might be very friendly, but I am frustrated with my interactions with them to the point if I’m in a situation where I would normally have called them, I now maybe will with my co-worker be like, ‘Will you come with me to do this thing?’” –Amanda Wolf, Campus Sustainability

“I do work with a lot of the exterior components and have higher engagement with non-PSU community members. Granted, I’m not going to put everyone in the same tent, but there are a lot of aggressive folks on campus, and then when we do try to contact CPSO with concerns of either the safety of staff and students, the response time is, I would say almost non-existent.” –Brandon Lesowske, Campus Sustainability

“I sat on the campus climate committee for the campus strategic plan, which included CPSO officers. The thing I kept hearing from CPSO officers on this committee is, ‘We need to be very careful and aware of people who have no reason to be here or don’t belong here.’ [There was] frequent mentions of things like, ‘The MAX line is opening, don’t you know that all of these people will be coming on campus?’ There was a lot of fear-mongering about things like campus sexual violence. Some of us were asking, ‘How would you be stopping a situation of sexual assault that happens in the context of a party or drinking? You’re not there, you’re not going to stop that from happening.’” –Lisa Bates, Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning

“There have been a couple situations where there was an individual on campus who appeared to be on drugs or didn’t know where they were and really needed help, and because of campus public safety officers being armed, I have to second guess, ‘Do I want to call these people because I’m not equipped to help them?’ but I don’t want to escalate the situation or cause harm. I also think that PSU has done a good job establishing an amnesty policy for students who are drinking or using drugs and experience sexual violence, but I don’t think that is very clear to students or communicated well. Based on the results of the 2016 campus climate survey conducted by [Global Diversity and Inclusion], many students don’t understand advocacy and response resources for sexual violence.” –Anastasia Hale, senior, Community Health Education major

“My personal experience with CPSO is as faculty; I’m sometimes working into the wee hours of the night. I have, over the years, used them as an escort to my vehicle numerous times, but I haven’t actually done that since they’ve been armed. I think there have been one or two times that I probably would have in the past. It certainly has impacted my sense of comfort calling for that service. They’ve always been delightful. I don’t have any reason to feel threatened or anything, but it’s changed my behavior.” –Sybil Kelley, Assistant Professor of Science Education and Sustainable Systems, Graduate School of Education

“I’m an alum, staff member and I’ve got a daughter who goes here. And while in general I feel safe in Portland, I can tell you as a parent of a 19-year-old girl, I don’t always feel safe for her. For me, one of the benefits for the increased attention on campus public safety at PSU is that I think there is heightened awareness of crime and how we deal with crime here on campus. I can also tell you that when I went to orientation with my daughter, at the table with all the parents when they learned I was staff here, the number one thing they wanted to know from me was, ‘Is my child safe here?’ That resonated with me because my response was, ‘Of course your child is safe. I’m sending my child here, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t feel like she was ultimately safe.’ But I can tell you I appreciate greater attention to our campus and its safety.” –Susan Klees, Senior Financial Officer, Finance and Administration

“It seems to me, since I’ve attended a lot of these, it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows—maybe not even CPSO—exactly what their role is, what they can and can’t do, what the community would like them to do. The community is very divided on [what they want CPSO to do] but it seems to me like it would behoove everyone if there was, ‘this is what CPSO does, and this is what they don’t do.’ And on top of that, then you also need to move in someone making sure that they are actually doing that. –Michael Federighi, community member

Shandi Hunt and Sophie Concannon contributed reporting for this story.