Security personnel cuts made
Minot State University has undergone a lot of changes in the past year due to state-mandated budget cuts, which included the elimination of about 50 positions throughout campus. Almost every department was impacted by cuts, including safety and security.
According to Gary Orluck, director of safety and security, MSU campus security is down to five security officers, which eliminated 24-hour security on campus.
In the past, Minot State security officers served as an intermediate to maintain control of any serious incident before the Minot Police Department arrived on the scene. With the elimination of this option, during the times of no coverage, Minot Police Department is now the first contact of security.
“They are primary, but also in addition, the Ward County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Highway Patrol also have jurisdiction on campus as well,” Orluck said. “So, we have three agencies we can call upon if there is an incident, and normally, Minot PD is the first call. Usually they are here within five minutes. ... It’s not like we are on an island and there is nobody around. We have a memorandum of understanding and my personal relationship with the chief and senior staff at the police department as well. We communicate on events.”
Minot State has set into motion plans to outsource a security company during the least problem-prone times on campus in the next couple of months, according to Brent Winiger, vice president for administration and finance. State protocol is causing the delay.
“The contract has to go through the attorney general and their lawyers have to approve. Although the state is trying to keep us out of trouble, unfortunately, it has delayed us,” Winiger said.
Outsourcing eliminates the cost of employee benefits, which makes it a more affordable option.
“Benefits run about 50 to 60 percent at that wage level. The outsourcers don’t have to do that. They don’t have to abide by the state laws like we do, so it ends up being way cheaper,” Winiger said.
Further security enhancements include the addition of new lights around the campus. MSU received a $400,000 grant from the state which was used to replace most of the lights on campus. This modification was necessary as the university still made use of old sodium halide and fluorescent lights.
“We have replaced those with LED lighting which is a brighter, whiter, more intense light,” Brian Smith, the director of facilities management, said. “These bulbs and fixtures have a 15-year warranty. It’s less maintenance. It’s the best lighting technology that has come around in years.”
The upgrade to the lighting on campus is an advantage because it provides more visibility at night and, therefore, increases security.
According to Smith, most of the new lights have been installed and the entire project should be completed by the end of the month.
In addition to the new lights, new cameras are to be installed using the remainder of the grant. Currently, there are 327 cameras campus-wide. An additional 95 cameras will be added in order to ensure coverage from different angles and of areas that were previously hidden from the cameras.
“I don’t think most people realize right now that we have [about] 400 cameras on campus,” Smith said. “Almost every corridor is covered—stairwells, entrances, and parking lots.”
The funds for the cameras were also provided through a grant from the state of North Dakota. It was administered through the university system and appropriated by the legislature under the title ‘Security Enhancements to the University.’
In addition to the live cameras, which record and save footage for a 30-day period, there are blue lights. These distinct cameras serve as a means of security which would prove valuable in the absence of security personnel.
“Blue lights [were] finished up about a year and a half ago. It was covered by a separate grant that was almost $700,000,” Smith said. “With that, we put 25 cameras all around the campus.”
Since completion, the blue lights have been fully functional.
In anticipation of the campus returning to 24/7 security coverage, students, faculty, and staff, should be advised to be vigilant.
“There is no way to make it 100 percent safe anywhere you go, and so, people need to show good judgment sometimes, too, and just keep their ears and eyes open,” Winiger said.
In the meantime, Winiger and Orluck are open to discussing security concerns with students.
“We are open to talk to any students who want to chat about any security issues or any suggestions for improvement,” Winiger said.