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Revisiting Campus Safety at Smith, June 12, 2020

Dear students, staff and faculty,

On July 1, Smith College will launch a new model for campus safety, informed by a yearlong process of community engagement and outreach. After 11 years of sharing a campus police operation with Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges, Smith will open its own Department of Campus Safety with a mandate to provide a safe, inclusive environment for the Smith community to live, work and learn.

The mission of the new department is strongly informed by the voices of the Smith community. Over the course of the spring 2019 semester, a Campus Safety Advisory Group (CSAG), which I chaired, met with more than 425 students, staff and faculty in 14 listening sessions, three open forums and a community playback meeting. Those consultations resulted in a set of recommendations for the new department, which we shared with the community in February.

In light of ongoing police brutality in our nation and our responsibility as an institution to examine policing structures that have historically perpetuated inequality and racial violence, we reconvened the CSAG earlier this week for a working session to review the prior recommendations. We affirmed that campus safety staff will:

  • Focus on community engagement
  • Continue to be unarmed
  • Continue to be sworn officers, which requires a high standard of ongoing training in areas including deescalation, crisis intervention and mental health response, and reduces the need for local and state law enforcement presence on campus
  • Reduce vehicle patrols on campus in favor of bicycles and walking
  • Continue to refuse any voluntary requests to release any information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any student, staff or faculty member unless legally compelled to do so. Should the college be subpoenaed for such information, Smith will seek legal counsel before taking any steps to comply.

We also recognize that our campus safety department exists within a larger law enforcement framework that itself requires significant redress. Therefore, at its recent meeting, CSAG forwarded the following new recommendations to President McCartney, who fully endorsed them.

  • The department’s name will change to better reflect its role in the community. It will be known as Smith College Campus Safety.
  • The college will form the Smith College Campus Safety Advisory Board, comprising students, staff and faculty who will partner with the department to build community and respond to emerging issues. More information on the charge and composition of the advisory board is forthcoming in the next few weeks.
  • Smith College Campus Safety will employ and train students to, whenever possible, respond to non-emergency requests such as residential lockouts.
  • The Office for Equity and Inclusion will partner with Smith College Campus Safety on anti-bias training and other equity and inclusion-driven professional development.

Importantly, members of the Smith community will see no interruption in service during the transition to the new campus safety department. The department’s dispatch, which will now be located in the facilities building on West Street on the Smith campus, will be reached by the same phone number as before: 413-585-2490, or 2490 (or 800 in an emergency) from on-campus phones.

On behalf of the Campus Safety Advisory Group, I would like to again extend my thanks to the hundreds of you who participated in this process to help shape a community-driven campus safety model. We welcome your continued feedback via


David DeSwert
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Chair, Ad-Hoc Campus Safety Advisory Group