8 buildings left unguarded on nights, weekends as NYU cuts Campus Safety overtime

The decrease in hours — which has left guard posts unstaffed at nights and on weekends — has raised concerns about trespassing, COVID-19 protocol enforcement and access to student resources.


Manaal Shareh

The Department of Campus Safety has cut overtime hours for security officers who work on the weekends in eight NYU buildings. As a result, the posts are left unfilled or are staffed by other university employees. (Photo by Manaal Shareh)

Carmo Moniz, Senior Staff Writer

Some Campus Safety posts are being left unstaffed on nights and weekends after NYU’s Department of Campus Safety cut overtime hours for security officers in several buildings, according to a memo the department sent to building supervisors. At times, guard posts have been filled by non-Campus Safety university employees. These gaps in security coverage are a result of budget constraints on the department.

We just don’t understand how this has become an issue to keep the buildings open for students who pay a quarter of a million dollars and attend here for four years.”

— an anonymous NYU building administrator

The eight buildings affected are 20 Cooper Square, 2 MetroTech, Pless Hall, Warren Weaver Hall, the Gallatin building, the School of Global Public Health building, the Silver Center and the Barney Building. Certain departments at these locations, such as Journalism and Studio Art, provide specialized equipment — including video editing-capable computers and art workspaces — without which students cannot complete their work.

“At the moment, the department, the deans, everyone, is really well-aware of it and are furious about it,” a building administrator said regarding the staffing shortages and building closures. “We just don’t understand how this has become an issue to keep the buildings open for students who pay a quarter of a million dollars and attend here for four years.”

The building administrator and NYU Campus Safety employees who spoke to WSN requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from university administration.

Previously, the buildings had security coverage throughout the week. Since Feb. 5, however, there have been gaps in night and weekend security coverage, the building administrator said, as staffing is now dependent on limited officer availability.

In an email viewed by WSN, the director of Campus Safety operations Karen Ortman informed affected building administrators that security coverage that had previously been provided through overtime assignments would be eliminated. The building administrator said that there is a shortage of around $8 million to pay officers for overtime, and that Campus Safety does not have enough staff to cover the extra hours.

University spokesperson John Beckman said that NYU has sought to reduce Campus Safety overtime costs by hiring more officers. In a statement to WSN, he said the number of officers rose from 251 in July 2020 to 327 as of February 2022.

NYU is constantly striving to save money, because those savings in turn help fund any number of University priorities, such as financial aid enhancements, restraining increases in the cost-of-attendance, investments in academic programs, to name just a few,” Beckman wrote. “It is a model that we already use at about one-quarter of our campus locations, and it operates successfully; we are simply introducing it to a number of additional locations to reduce overtime costs.”

A Campus Safety officer said the plan is to decrease the total salary of officers, who use overtime hours as an extra source of income. The officer said that many workers rely on overtime hours paid at time-and-a-half.

“If there was no overtime at all, this job would be a financial struggle,” the officer said. “Guards traditionally make a lot of money — we make a pretty decent wage — but it’s New York, so it’s never enough.”

The interior of an NYU academic building, with an empty public safety desk on the left, and a mailroom with a red entrance on the right.
An empty guard post at Warren Weaver Hall on Sunday, Feb. 13 at around 2 p.m. A cutdown on overtime hours for Campus Safety officers has left guard posts unstaffed at nights and on weekends and guards concerned about the security of NYU students and faculty. (Staff Photo by Carmo Moniz)

Another Campus Safety officer said that many members of the department’s staff are concerned about the enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines and the potential for people not associated with NYU to enter university buildings without guards.

“They could piggyback off professors leaving the building and just walk in,” the officer said. “And students might not know how to get out of the building in the case of an emergency.”

In response to concerns regarding COVID-19 and trespassing, Beckman said that video surveillance, tap access and officers patrolling campus will replace officers at guard posts during the hours with no coverage. According to the Campus Safety email, officers will visit the eight buildings twice a day and inspect the exterior and each floor of the building. 

A member of the leadership of Local One, the union for NYU’s security officers, alleges that the change in Campus Safety coverage on campus led to an instance where an intruder entered one of the buildings. They also claimed that on another occasion, a student checked IDs at one of the buildings, which they described as a breach of the collective bargaining agreement between Local One and NYU.

“Our main concern right now is the safety of students and faculty,” the union leader said. “We make our voices heard when we see issues like that.”

The building administrator, who is not a Campus Safety employee, said they once had to cover the security desk on a Sunday in mid-February in order to keep the building open. Otherwise, they said, the building would have only been accessible to students and faculty who had previous approval from the department. 

“I’m happy to do it once, and I really do feel that this will resolve itself,” they said. “How we got to this point is a completely different question in itself. It seems like a self-inflicted wound.”

When some of the buildings that house specialized equipment are closed, students who need the equipment are unable to complete work on the weekends, according to a security officer.

Steinhardt junior Julia Merchan, who studies studio art and works as a student monitor in the Barney Building, said she has been left with limited access to workspaces she needs. She noted that other monitors have changed their schedules and overlapped shifts to avoid losing paid hours.

“Students as well as staff members are definitely not happy with this change,” Merchan said. “Monitors were first made aware of the fact of the change of hours due to an email sent out to the whole major, not even from their managers directly until later that day. It seems like no one was truly aware of this issue until the weekend was basically upon us.”

Another Steinhardt junior who studies studio art and works as a monitor, Elijah Chavez, was unable to enter the Barney Building to work on Feb. 6 and Feb. 12 as a result of the cuts to weekend security coverage.

“I was really confused, just considering there is a prominent need for public safety on campus with NYU,” Chavez said. “There have been previous issues with public safety in the studio art building before, aside from this recent incident as well.”

In the wake of the cuts to overtime expenses, the Barney Building has started to actively appeal to NYU and Campus Safety for an officer to cover the weekend shifts, according to an email from Steinhardt’s art department director Tammy Brown that was viewed by WSN. As of Feb. 23, student access to the building for upcoming weekends is yet to be determined, contingent on officer availability.

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected]