By: Millie Brasser
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Penn State New Kensington, one of the many branch campuses of Penn State University, is not only a small campus for students to learn and become well acquainted with one another, but, according to many, it is also a safe campus.
Penn State New Kensington’s Chief of Police and Public Safety Manager at the New Kensington and Fayette Campuses, Wesley Sheets, works hard to ensure the campus has an excellent safety record. Throughout his time as Public Safety Manager, Sheets has become rather knowledgeable on the initiatives that make up campus safety.
Sheets has worked for over one year at the Penn State New Kensington campus, where he has had the experience of maintaining campus security. He explained that throughout his role in the Department of Public Safety, he is committed to community service and the police. His work in the department helps him to maintain a positive association for a better overall experience for students, staff, and visitors.
The University Police and Public Safety departments are responsible for the protection and service of Penn State students, teachers, and staff. They are additionally responsible for the protection and maintenance of property as well as the application of Commonwealth laws and regulations of the University.
These departments and those who carry out the duties to maintain safety prove to be vital as situations of danger and violence become more frequent in public institutions in today’s society. The conflict that occurred recently at Ohio State University, where a student attacked several other students with a knife, demonstrates the need for public safety officials to be prepared and knowledgeable regarding how to manage such situations.
The Washington Post reported, “An Ohio State student drove into a crowd outside a classroom building Monday morning, then got out and slashed people with a butcher knife, sending 11 people to the hospital in what authorities said was a planned assault.”
Sheets explained his perspective regarding the campus public safety department.
“We are here to proactively protect and serve our community in every way possible,” said Sheets.
According to Sheets, his other campus duties and responsibilities include updating and maintaining the campus emergency plans and procedures. This includes maintaining all campus crime and safety information as mandated by state and federal regulations.
“The department is responsible for providing services to the campus community including vehicle assistance, crime prevention programs and presentations, safety escorts and various other duties,” explained Sheets.
Sheets said that the first objective and procedure in place in case of an emergency is to inform PSUalert immediately. This system is used to alert members of Penn State campus communities in emergencies, such as campus closures and other urgent information.
“Using this portal is a quick way to communicate information to our entire community,” said Sheets.
Sheets explained that the Penn State New Kensington faculty and staff are provided with an emergency response handbook which outlines expectations for a variety of emergencies or incidents. This booklet is located in all classrooms throughout the campus.
“The campus also has other procedures like ‘BEEPS’ which are our Emergency Building Evacuation Plans, which have provided evacuation procedures for the entire campus,” said Sheets. “These plans have been developed through our office in conjunction with the Environmental Health and Safety Office at University Park. It has provided evacuation maps, which have been placed throughout campus, includes procedures to evacuate campus, and also identifies specific staff members throughout the campus who are responsible for assisting the evacuation process.”
Sheets also meets regularly with members of Penn State’s Emergency Management Department in order to ensure that they are all properly trained and prepared for a variety of potential emergencies.
“We are always working to make our campus better prepared,” said Sheets.
Penn State New Kensington sophomore student, Monica Fiore, explained that she feels very safe on campus.
“While there is not really that much security on campus, like there would be in grade school, I feel there is no need for there to be,” explained Fiore. “Penn State New Kensington is a very safe campus and that’s why it was voted one of the safest campuses in Pennsylvania earlier this year.”
Fiore explained that while she was majoring in Administration of Justice last year, she researched crimes that occurred on the campus and found that there were not any reported.
“I feel that there are no crimes and that Penn State is one of the safest campuses because Penn State’s students are very exceptional students,” said Fiore.
Matthew Boehm, a junior at Penn State New Kensington, also agreed that he felt safe on the campus.
“It is a very safe and fun campus to be at,” said Boehm. “I appreciate the security at the front desk for all that they do. I know that there won’t be any unsafe incidents because all the students are at college to learn and to further their knowledge.”
Emily Smouse, explained ”I do think schools should practice lockdown drills with all of the recent school shootings and stabbings. It would be very helpful for all students to know what to do in an emergency setting. I think all parents would support this kind of practice because they are worried for the safety of their children in colleges today.”
Penn State New Kensington alum Kaitlin Miskanic explained why she believes lock down drills and back up plans could be some preventative ways for campuses to stay safe and be prepared to protect the public.
“If something similar to the Ohio State University incident happened here at Penn State New Kensington, I would be surprised and scared at the same time,” said Miskanic. “This is such a small campus. Everyone knows everyone here so it would be hard to believe something like that could happen on this campus. I would also make sure it’s completely safe to return to campus again if an incident like that occurred. I think schools, even colleges, should practice lockdown drills because you never know what to expect with everything happening in society nowadays.”