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USG launches safety initiative; website ranks UNG safest in Georgia

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Officer Ryan Scott talks to students at the University of North Georgia.

(May 19, 2015) Today, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) implemented a system-wide initiative to strengthen campus safety efforts. The initiative comes days after the University of North Georgia (UNG) was ranked the safest school in Georgia and 53rd safest in the nation in the Niche Safest Campus Ranking.

In the recent Niche.com rankings of campus safety, UNG was the only one of 31 public and private Georgia schools on the list to earn a national ranking. The Safest Campus ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the health and safety at traditional four-year colleges and universities using public data and student surveys. A high ranking indicates that there is little or no crime on campus and low drug and alcohol usage and students report that the college provides a safe and healthy environment for students.

"This recognition is a testament to the dedicated service of our officers and staff in providing quality public safety for our university community on all four campuses," said Justin Gaines, director of public safety and chief of police at UNG. "They are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to protecting, serving and educating."

In August, USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby called for the university system to take a serious and thorough look at safety and security practices at its institutions. The USG campus safety initiative recommended by Huckaby and the USG Campus Safety and Security Committee centralizes the implementation and oversight of campus safety policies, procedures and requirements and mandates system-led training for institution faculty and staff and students.

"We are about educating students and increasing the number of Georgians who have completed college. To continue to do this, we must provide our students, faculty and staff a safe environment, and we will apply best practices at each campus," Huckaby said. "This is a fundamental change in the way we have been operating across our system of institutions."

The chancellor established the University System's Campus Safety and Security Committee with campus stakeholders. The report and recommendations were developed by presidents, police chiefs, student affairs professionals, medical and mental health professionals, faculty, and students.

Also today, USG announced the formation of an 18-member Alcohol and Substance Abuse Task Force that will review and develop recommendations related to alcohol and substance abuse at the System's 30 public colleges and universities. UNG's Gaines has been selected to serve on the task force.

The task force will review policies and procedures relating to alcohol and substance abuse at university system institutions, review the impact of alcohol licensing, and address other matters appropriate. Upon completion of its review, the task force will report its recommendations to Huckaby.

Key provisions of the USG campus safety initiative announced today include:

  • Education and training for the campus community
    • Institution employees and students: Required training to help identify and prevent sexual violence, harassment, and other misconduct with a special focus on entering freshmen students.
    • Title IX: Mandated system-wide annual training for specific institution staff responsible for enforcing and investigating alleged violations.
    • Law enforcement: System-wide training for campus law enforcement specifically designed for the student-oriented campus environment. Key focus areas will include responding to sexual assaults and addressing mental health needs.
  • Clear and consistent policies and procedures
    • Implement a consistent policy and approach based on best practices across all USG campuses to ensure student access to support services and confidential counseling.
    • Develop consistent guidelines for reporting campus crime, including campus-wide timely warnings for crimes that pose a serious threat to the campus community.
    • Transparent and accessible: Create a clear, web-based site for all campus crime-related reports.
  • Tracking and accountability
    • Implementation timeline: The report specifies a timeline for implementation of the recommendations, which the board will review and adopt.
    • Campus climate survey: Mandate a system-wide campus climate survey at least every two years that will evaluate how the system is doing and identify areas for improvement; the first survey will be conducted in the upcoming academic year.
    • Annual reviews of support services and resources: For parties involved in sexual misconduct and assault.
The full report can be downloaded here: USG Campus Safety and Security Committee Report

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