CSO program resurrected
The Community Service Officer program will be restored as soon as possible, according to an announcement Vice Chancellor Kari Burrell made at the Student Forum last Sunday. No date for the official start of the new program has been announced, but Burrell expects it to be no later than the upcoming spring semester.
The program was ended last spring following a 33 percent cut to the police department budget. Several police positions were also changed, according to UAF Police Chief Steve Goetz. The deputy chief position was cut entirely while positions for an investigator and a lieutenant in charge of CSOs and dispatch were each cut by 10 percent and reassigned to patrol duties.
Interim Chancellor Dana Thomas says re-implementing the program was one of his biggest priorities since taking office last summer.
“Safety is a high priority, and the CSO program provides more eyes and ears across the campus,” Thomas said. “So when I came on and realized that had been reduced, I knew it had been a real value to us for safety and knew I would like that decision to be reconsidered.”
With some shifting of budgets, enough funding was secured to reinstate the program.
“Last year Chancellor Powers had set aside some funding in case we had high utility prices or other fixed cost increases,” Burrell said. “By the time Chancellor Thomas got here we realized we actually had some extra base funding that he could put toward [other] priorities and one of his biggest priorities was the CSO program.”
The police department was asked to create several budget options and possible tasks to be assigned to the CSOs. While no specific option has been chosen yet, it is likely that the program will resume many of their previous duties.
Duties under the old CSO program included escorts for students who felt uncomfortable walking alone, locking and unlocking of campus buildings in the morning and evening, additional campus patrol and vehicle jumpstarts and unlocks. CSOs also provide extra security during large campus events such as Starvation Gulch, concerts, dances and the New Year’s Eve Sparktacular fireworks display.
It is likely that parking services, while originally manned by the CSOs, will remain at the bursar’s office, Burrell says.
“They’re really going to be focusing more on the law enforcement side and safety side of things as opposed to the administrative side this time,” Burrell said.
“Parking has always been somewhat of a contentious issue so I’m happy with leaving that with the bursar’s office,” Goetz said.
Several former CSOs have expressed interest in returning to the program according to Goetz.
Chancellor Thomas has placed significant focus on re-implementing this program regardless of UA’s budget challenges.
“It depends on how deep our budget reductions are,” Burrell said. “But it’s important enough to the chancellor that if we do experience further cuts we would look for some other places in the university system to take those reductions. We want to avoid starting it in January and then cutting it again in July.”