Welcome back for Spring semester and Happy New Year!
Normally, my messages are focused on safety and security tips, and how each of us play a part in preventing crime. I talk about securing your valuables, protecting yourself from cyber threats, identity theft, avoiding risky behaviors and being aware of your surroundings. All those things are critically important, and I encourage each of you to continue to take them to heart.
As we start the new year, however, I want to reflect a bit on 2020 and talk about my “why” for 2021: Why I continue to be inspired to work with all of you to create a safe and healthy campus and community.
We faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. At every turn issues demanded our attention, including COVID-19, tornadoes, tension surrounding social justice and racism – along with the complexities of daily life.
Through it all, each of us sought ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and I was inspired by the way Clemson responded to the challenges that 2020 brought our way. I witnessed students, staff and faculty working together to assist those in need and address social issues that reach far beyond our campus. The issues we faced repeatedly brought out the best in our faculty, staff, students and community. For this, I am grateful.
Like many of you, I was thrilled to say goodbye to 2020 and said a lot of prayers that 2021 would bring better times and help us all return to some semblance of normal.
Admiral James Stockdale, one of the longest serving prisoners of war during the Vietnam era once said, “You must not confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current situation, whatever they might be.”
This quote resonated with me last week as I witnessed the unprecedented and criminal actions that took place at the U.S. Capitol. After nearly 40 years of public service in the military and law enforcement, I was shocked, angered and saddened to see this behavior by American citizens in one of the enduring houses of our democracy. Regardless of your beliefs or politics, violence, destruction and anarchy are never the answer to solving our differences.
I know what occurred in 2020, and what we have experienced in the past week, are a lot to process. It is all a perfect recipe for exhaustion, uncertainty, anxiety and fear — which makes it all the more important that we band together to support and care for those in need.
That is my safety and security message for this semester.
Every one of us can make a difference, and we all have a responsibility to help when and how we can. This goes back to the active bystandership model that is so important in situations involving sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, or other forms of bias behavior. I would like for us to begin to expand our thinking and understand active bystandership can be used in any situation where we identify a need for empathy, care and support.
When I first began to talk about active bystandership as part of CUPD’s culture, I used the phrase “be the one.” I want our officers to “be the one” to stand up when a wrong has been committed, or better yet, to be the one to prevent a wrong from occurring in the first place.
I would challenge each of us to adopt this mindset whenever possible. This isn’t to suggest you place yourself in dangerous situations. It could be as simple as sharing a resource with a friend who is experiencing difficulties or filing a CARE report. Don’t fall into the trap of “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” You just might be saving someone’s life.
I also want to assure you that CUPD is working hard to implement policies and practices to effectively deal with issues that could be exacerbated by all that we have faced in the last 12 months. A full run-down of the activities we are implementing can be found at https://www.clemson.edu/cusafety/cupd/ on the CUPD web site.
We are working hard every day to create this environment for each of you. We work daily with our local, state and federal partners to identify, investigate and resolve actual and potential threats to our community. We develop, exercise and review action plans that inform our responses. We seek to communicate with various groups or organizers to collaborate and help facilitate and support safe and successful events.
To be completely successful, however, we need the support of all our partners — including each of you. So, I am asking for your help.
If you see, hear or learn about an issue that could create problems for a friend or the entire campus, please contact the appropriate entity to get help. Clemson has myriad support resources and there are many more in the surrounding community.
If it is a criminal matter, or one that has safety impacts, please contact CUPD and share the information, even if anonymously. You also can alert a trusted friend, colleague or campus administrator. No piece of information is too small or inconsequential. It might be the piece of the puzzle that prevents a significant incident.
The past year has delivered extreme challenges. It also provided many opportunities to demonstrate strength, empathy and compassion.
As we continue to navigate these choppy waters, we may stumble, and mistakes are possible. I hope we will use our collective energy to learn from each other and build a better tomorrow through empathy and civility, and by extending one another an extra measure of grace whenever possible.
My experience as a member of the Clemson team gives me hope for better days ahead. I truly believe that together we can create a shared purpose that will help bring a greater sense of safety, security and hope to our community in 2021.