By PRINCESS WILLIAMS
Claflin University is making a lot of changes for the next school year, with safety and security are at the top of the list.
In a news conference with Mass Communications Department students, Vice President for Student Development and Services Dr. Leroy Durant said changes include more lighting, installation of security cameras and more phones around campus, plus fencing of the first parking lot on Goff Avenue, removal of the Millwood apartments and beginning an escort service.
"The No. 1 concern that will always be on any college campus is students, faculty and staff safety," Durant said.
The escort program will be available to males and females from 7 p.m. to midnight. Thirteen fraternity brothers will be trained and undergo security clearance. The gentlemen will not be armed. They will use walkie-talkies to communicate with security.
Durant addressed the precautions taken during the South Carolina State shooting incident in January.
"I think we did very well," he said. Buildings were locked, the siren had been sounded, Panther Alerts went out, and information about a potential suspect was distributed via email, which was provided by South Carolina State.
Durant said he was very concerned about seeing people walking around campus less than 20 minutes after the lockdown.
"We have some education to do. When sirens and alerts are used, people need to follow the rules."
A committee at Claflin is analyzing the "active shooter plan" to determine any need for change.
Students also have a part in assisting with security in all instances. "Officers cannot be everywhere all the time," Durant advised.
"Be aware of someone who is not a Claflin student," Durant said, indicating that students have a good idea when a person or a situation simply is not right. If someone is hanging around cars and is not recognizable, take note and notify security. Safety is in the hands of us all. Safety rests with all of us."
New residence halls will be ready by fall.
"The facility will house about 200 students and include the main entrance, high ceilings with natural lighting, open gathering spaces, a multipurpose room for student meetings and two fitness rooms," said Tijuana Hudson, vice president of business and finance.
"This is a building like no other we have on campus," Durant said. "When I look at this building, I'm just not looking at a residence hall. I'm looking at something that others across that country who want to build buildings for residential living will come and take a look at."
The purpose of the new housing for 100 males and 100 females is to get all "on-campus" students, numbering more than 1,100, back on campus.
Present Claflin housing locations, such as the former Russell Street Inn on Russell Street, will no longer be leased by Claflin.
"Everybody is not going to like change. Change is hard for people to swallow," Durant said.
Durant also referenced two other issues of interest to students: No return of freshman curfew and no tuition increase for the fall.