There are currently 16,663 students enrolled at Sam Houston State, including 9,596 commuters. Those who live on campus depend on the security shifts of about six student officers with the University Police Department.
A lack of funding for campus security has been blamed for the lopsided ratio. The issue has been recognized by the Texas Students Association, of which SHSU is a member, as not only a campus issue, but a statewide problem.
According to Lt. Trey Holloway with UPD, campus security varies depending on shifts and days.
“Let’s say for instance on day shift. Typically, when we are fully staffed, we have the chief, the assistant chief, the detective, a lieutenant and three other officers,” Holloway said.
Student assistants are trained by either UPD or by senior student assistance, Holloway said. They are not trained nor licensed by the state, nor do they have the power to detain or arrest suspects.
“They are our eyes and ears,” Holloway said. “If they see anything suspicious or damaged, they call us. The student assistants at night are assigned to different areas of campus and everybody is responsible for that area.”
With the recent abduction of a student on campus, security has been scrutinized. According to Kevin Morris, chief of UPD, a lack of funding stands out as the culprit behind limited on-campus security efforts.
“I don’t have the man power to do guards or the budget to put a guard at every housing complex that the university has,” Morris said.
Insufficient funds for campus security have also been addressed by the TSA board, which plans to take the issue to the state capitol later this semester.
Stephen F. Austin State, Texas A&M, the University of North Texas, UH Clearlake, and several other TSA member schools were also in attendance.
“We’ve been tasked,” Travis Miller of External Affairs said. “Out of all the universities, Sam Houston State University was nominated [to cover the issue of campus security]. It is a statewide problem. Every university needs more money and more boots on the ground.”
Sam Houston State University has been entrusted with the task of bringing the issue to the state, not only for this campus, but for others as well.
“As a top Criminal Justice [institution], we should be the leaders,” Miller said. “It is sort of an embarrassment. We do need to make changes and we need to learn from events. The status quo can’t remain. We didn’t pick [the task], we accepted it.”
Miller said the TSA will be proposing that the state offer more funding to universities for campus security, but said the estimated amount to be requested is still under discussion.
“We don’t want to ask for a pile of money,” Morris said. “We want accountability, and we want to put the money where it matters.”