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GRCC President says campus is ‘too open,’ introduces plan to increase campus security at town hall meeting

Photo courtesy of GRCC

On July 20, Grand Rapids Community College president Charles Lepper held his first Town Hall Meeting with faculty and staff members to introduce new campus safety and remote working policies, which will take effect during the upcoming fall semester. 

Starting this fall semester, new security policies and measurements will be implemented to increase the security and safety of GRCC. Lepper aims to enhance safety measures for students and employees by using more advanced access control throughout the GRCC campus in hopes of minimizing the chances of a potential threat.

“Our buildings are too open,” Lepper said. “Our buildings are too open for where we are situated, and we need to take a little bit more proactive approach to help secure our buildings without shutting the public out.” 

While Lepper explained during the forum that he wants to maintain GRCC’s reputation as a public institution, he said that more precautions should be taken due to the state of the world.

“I will tell you, and I’m sure I’m not the only one in the room, these are the things that keep me awake at night and that I worry about,” Lepper said. “We are not immune from the potential for bad things to happen on our campus. We have been fortunate, and I hope that we continue to be fortunate. I will say, actually, I pray that we continue to be fortunate, but we never know when those needs are going to arise.”

GRCC buildings will now have main public entrances, with all other doors requiring a RaiderCard to access them. These public entrances will have signs throughout the campus to make them easy to locate. They will also be locked at designated times in the evening and will only be accessible to individuals with a RaiderCard. The Applied Technology Center (ATC), the Heritage and the M-TEC building will now be locked at 8 p.m. Office buildings, such as the Administration Building, will be set to lock at 5 p.m., and classroom/academic buildings will lock at 7 p.m. These same rules will be applied at the Lakeshore campus this fall.

While not every door can be accessed by the public, every door will still function as an exit. Lepper requests that doors that require RaiderCard access be strictly used only by GRCC students and staff and remain closed when not being used, as they will be monitored through the GRCC police dispatch when ajar.

“The general employee access is 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, I think until 10 p.m. on Fridays and then 6 (a.m.) to 5 or 6 (p.m.) on Saturdays. Anything beyond that, either later at night or Sunday, requires that extended access form,” said GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman. “Students will only have access until 9 or 9:30 p.m. We haven’t quite worked that out yet, but they will not have access to the building all the way up until 11 p.m.”

More information about these public entrances will be provided on Aug. 23, and the new security measures will take full effect on Sept. 18. Lepper also announced that emergency call boxes will be updated soon to approve the general safety on campus as well.

Lepper explains new remote work guidelines for faculty and staff to take effect this fall 

At the town hall meeting, Lepper also rolled out new guidelines for faculty and staff remote work. Starting in September, faculty and staff members must go through an approval process to work from home or remotely. Anyone in a technical or professional position will be eligible for a remote work agreement and will be allowed to work one day of the week remotely throughout the academic year. This agreement is not in effect during the first two weeks of the fall and winter semesters.

Ineligible departments for the remote work agreement are contingency, student employees, custodian/maintenance, GRCC police, office/direct support, Meet and Confer (anyone 18 or older) and the Executive Leadership Team. These departments will have occasional remote work policies that include 12 days an employee can work remotely within the academic year. Lepper requests that these days be planned in advance and are ultimately determined by a supervisor, depending on the situation. Anyone in a remote work agreement will not receive an additional 12 days.

“We are going to ask supervisors, look at your department and work with your executive leadership team member and help us determine is your department set up for the nature of its work, its responsibilities, its role at the college, to be allowed remote working,” Lepper said. “For some departments, that will work amazingly for other departments, not so much.”

With these new policies, there will hopefully be more in-person services open to students throughout GRCC. 

“We talk about belonging a lot, and for our students, imagine coming into an office where there’s no one sitting there, or half the lights are off. That doesn’t create a real welcoming environment for our students,” said Lepper. “And I know that I’m telling you things that you already know, but we have to have people in place that when our students walk in, they feel welcomed, they feel like they belong and they feel like there’s someone there helping them.”

Watch Lepper’s entire town hall meeting presentation on YouTube. Upcoming town hall meetings are planned for October and November.

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