Keeping students and staff safe in residencies and on campus is no mean feat with a community of around 40,000 people and almost 400 buildings to care for 24/7. We talk to Tony Cowley, Security Supervisor, to clarify the role of security in residencies and why following the rules mean we’ll all be safer.
Tell us more about your team and the different Security Services staff that students will encounter in residencies.
I’ve been at the University for nearly two years now and I lead a team of Security Officers that provide an in-house security service across the whole university estate, which includes keeping over 370 buildings, 9 halls of residences and the students and staff therein, safe and secure, 24/7. We respond to everything from fellow student complaints to fire incidents to building access issues – no day is ever the same and dealing with such a large campus certainly keeps us busy!
We work closely with Residential Life and Residential Facilities teams to provide an all-round service for students that respond to differing needs. As you would expect of us, we respond to matters that would be deemed a breach of student behaviour rules and regulations, which include criminality, drug use/possession, excessive noise (usually loud parties) and other anti-social behaviour. It is important that we respond accordingly and seek to reduce the harm that certain behaviours can have on the individuals involved, other students and the wider community. But it’s equally important to remember our role in supporting our students and staff and helping to keep everyone as safe as possible. This new webpage sets out more about what you can expect from us and what we can’t do – a way to explain the relationship between Security Services and our students.
Students may have noticed that there are also Security staff in blue or orange tabards at the halls (we are the staff in yellow and black). These are additional contract staff that have been brought in specifically to assist the residential teams with managing student gatherings that would breach government guidance and university rules around social gatherings during this pandemic.
How can students help to keep themselves and others safe in residencies during these challenging times?
When it comes to student behaviour and matters that might lead to disciplinary action, it’s really important for you to be aware of the rules and regulations that are helping to keep us all safe so that you can continue to live and study safely and successfully. You’ll find an overview of how students and your security team can best work together in a new agreement. So whilst at the moment you can’t have parties involving people from outside your household for example, there are still loads of virtual events and activities to explore and make new friends this way.
Keeping safe within your residences really does rely on each student playing their part to look after one another. As much as we would like to be, we can’t be everywhere at once, so your safety depends on you all doing your bit. All students would have received a ‘UoB: SAFE’ booklet within their induction packs at the beginning of the year, which offers advice and links to further resources.
For all welfare and pastoral care needs, do contact your local Student Support Centre to speak to someone from Residential Life and use the wellbeing resources online.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of our role here is the sheer variety of matters that we deal with, as well as the ability to help so many people within our community. We are often working in challenging conditions with limited numbers of staff, so we also need to support each other during the tough times and our teamwork ethic is key to these situations. This couldn’t be more true as we all navigate our way through this pandemic, where we are trying our best to balance a very unique situation at the halls. By all doing our bit we can help avoid further lockdown and restrictions.
We were all really proud of our colleague Stacey who won an award for ‘Security Officer of the Year for an Outstanding Act of Courage’ a short while ago. She went beyond what was expected to manage a serious student safety issue at a halls of residence and was recognised by the Association of University Chief Security Officers (AUCSO).
And to finish, what would you say to the students here?
Our role is absolutely to work with you and keep our community safe. We all have a part to play in reducing the spread of the virus so thank you for sticking to the rules.