Guest Essay: Campus Safety dept. ‘a ship without a captain,’ officer says

An officer describes arrogant, disrespectful leadership and low morale among staff in NYU’s Department of Campus Safety.

A+purple+uniform+patch+with+the+logo+of+the+NYU+Department+of+Public+Safety+on+the+shoulder+of+a+Public+Safety+Officer.

Manaal Shareh

(Photo by Manaal Shareh)

an anonymous Campus Safety officer, Guest Contributor

The author is an NYU Campus Safety officer. Their identity has been verified by WSN.

As a longtime employee of the Department of Campus Safety, I am disheartened to see what is happening within the department and what it has become in recent years. It has gone from being a department proactive on safety that leadership was clearly proud of to a department that now prioritizes the budget over student and employee safety.

The current DCS administration seems to only be concerned with maintaining accreditation and does not give safety a second thought unless there’s an incident that receives public attention. This trend has gone on since 2016, with the appointment of Marlon Lynch as campus safety chief and his decision to pursue CALEA accrediation

The department’s management structure has expanded substantially while the number of uniformed staff has been reduced. When he was asked about this reduction in a town hall meeting during his tenure, Lynch answered that the department had hired more officers after 9/11, which was why the numbers of uniformed staff was higher at the time. No one asked Lynch if he was aware that 9/11 had occurred 15 years earlier — his explaination made no sense, nor did it explain the disproportionate salary increases of DCS administrators and their sheer number in comparison to uniformed staff. At the time and to this day, Lynch is also a commissioner of the CALEA accreditation board, whose very standard he pushed so hard for when he was in charge. He left the department after receiving the accreditation, and in came current Campus Safety chief Fountain Walker.

The department now costs more money to run but provides less service than ever before. Campus Safety is a ship without a captain. The emergency management department is unable to manage emergencies — most dispatchers don’t know the main campus due to poor training. Senior leadership is rarely on campus and takes questionable business trips for long periods of time with little to no explanation. Morale has never been lower within the ranks, and leadership has no answers and operates like they answer to no one. They have what can only be described as a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. 

Morale has never been lower within the ranks, and leadership has no answers and operates like they answer to no one.”

While the department has now finally begun hiring new uniformed staff, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, leadership was woefully unprepared, and most administrators went home. Four weeks and the death of one officer passed before there was any communication with the uniformed staff still on campus. DCS leadership also provided little to no personal protective equipment until they were called out by students for not providing any to officers around the end of April 2020, all while touting donations made to the broader community. When we asked about getting plastic partitions to protect officers at their posts, the answer from leadership was that they were too expensive and they couldn’t source them. Bear in mind that the emergency management division employed about seven people during that time and could not accomplish these basic tasks, while my local supermarket didn’t have those issues. 

As if it wasn’t bad enough that DCS leadership simply left without any thought to the officers remaining on campus, they also made it clear that our safety wasn’t a priority to them. The lack of PPE and uniformed staff got so untenable that enraged sergeants had no choice but to redouble their unionization efforts. The department and NYU refused to voluntarily recognize the sergeants as a collective bargaining unit, and maintained that they were supervisors, even though they had no real authority. The National Labor Relations Board agreed with the sergeants and they won their case on April 7, 2021, ratifying the contract on Feb. 9, 2022. During the pandemic, officers and sergeants were forced to work overtime almost daily to cover all the shifts as the staff was stretched impossibly thin. The department was also slow to hire badly needed uniformed staff.

Current DCS management continues to be negligent, arrogant and completely dismissive of any employee complaints or concerns. I feel that they are never held to any standard. This attitude continues today as leadership continues to prioritize cost-cutting measures rather than safety. They were quick to congratulate themselves for adding cameras in Gould Plaza when students were being attacked. A camera is helpful, but it would not prevent or stop an attack like an officer on patrol in the area would. Campus Safety didn’t want a guard posted because of the extra costs involved. Eventually, DCS had to temporarily post a contract security officer in the area, which it should have done in the first place. These are just some of the questionable decisions that the people trusted with our collective safety are making on a daily basis. 

Current department leadership is petty, doesn’t listen to officers who raise red flags, and will retaliate if they perceive any slight. They don’t react to anything unless there’s negative publicity. Campus Safety senior leadership conducts themselves with the attitude that their position exempts them from any sort of scrutiny. Officers and sergeants are held to a standard that leadership feels doesn’t apply to them. They have been targeting officers and sergeants for many different reasons. Uniformed staff have been made to feel uncomfortable while at work. These microaggressions by management have led to a hostile work environment for many uniformed officers and even some non-uniformed personnel.

A lot of us wonder if anyone in the NYU administration is aware of the situation in the Department of Campus Safety. It’s only a matter of time before something really bad happens due to negligence. It raises the question: Since it’s not being spent on safety, where does the money go? Does the NYU administration even care?

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are not the views of the Washington Square News.

Contact the author at [email protected]