Editor’s Note: Officer Zimmerman retired in April. Thank you for your service!
by Dwayne A. Magee
“The best education in the world is useless if a student doesn’t survive with a healthy mind and body” – Connie and Howard Clery
On April 5, 1986, less than 1 week after Easter, 19 year old Jeanne Clery was sound asleep in her dorm room at Lehigh University. Had she known about a string of recent crimes occurring on her campus, she may not have propped open the door to her room before she had settled in for bed. However, her roommate had forgotten her key and Jeanne was just doing what she had seen hundreds of other students do time and time again. Shortly after midnight, she awoke to find that she was being robbed by another student. When the thief saw she was awake, he beat her. Then he raped her and killed her.
Flash forward to 2018 at Messiah College. Director of Investigations, Compliance, and Training Cindy Burger remembers that murder. She tracks and document crime at the college. Students and their parents must never be kept from having access to this important information as Jeanne Clery was.
In 1990, as a result of concerns about campus safety stemming from the killing of Jeanne Clery, Congress enacted a Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act. This statute requires colleges like Messiah to hire people like Burger. She has years of law enforcement experience and she understands crime statistics and security information.
This year, she begins her report with a short message from her and Director of the Department of Safety Lynn Maynard explaining the purpose and content of the document. Her letter begins:
To the Messiah College community,
We are pleased to provide the 2017 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report. Valuable information provided on the following pages is given to alert, inform, and advise the campus community. This document will supply information about current safety-related educational and resource programs. It will also outline policies and procedures connected to crime awareness and reporting. Lastly, it will disclose campus crime statistics for the past three years in compliance with federal law.
Burger wants the students and employees at the college to know upfront why a report like this is important. She and Maynard believe that the work of creating a truly safe campus is an ongoing collaboration between their department and the people they serve. Her report will remind readers that everyone is in charge of safety it is everyone’s job to follow good safety practices. She and Maynard maintain an open door policy and welcome all questions, comments, and feedback.
“I do this work in part,” Burger admits, “due to compliance requirements and federal law. But I also do it because I am passionate about safety and, when we do a good job, we honor Jeanne Clery’s life.”
Burger also strongly supports and believes in the mission of the college where she works. Above her desk, next to a picture of her two children, she keeps a framed copy.
Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.
“I am committed to the work of maintaining an environment conducive to learning for our students,” she says. “My daughter is one of them and I want for all students what I want for her.”
Bryce Wickard was also once a Messiah student. He is now one of four Messiah alumni working with Burger and Maynard in the Department of Safety.
“I remember how stressful it was to complete assignments on time and prepare for exams,” he recalls. “College life is rigorous enough without any added concerns about safety. I believe that every member of the college community has a right to pursue academic, spiritual, and social endeavors without interruption or fear for safety. And the parents of our students need to know their daughters and sons are living in a safe and secure environment.”
Over the course of the next few months, Burger will collect all of the information necessary for her 113 page report and record it according to a prescribed set of standards. She will include information about safety on campus in general as well as contact information and reporting requirements. When the report is ready, she is then responsible for making it available to employees, students, and anyone considering Messiah as their college of choice.
The federal law mandating this kind of reporting has been around since 1990. Although it has been amended several times over the years, the spirit of the law remains the same.
“The 1998 amendments,” notes Maynard, “renamed the law the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. It was renamed in memory of the student killed at Lehigh. Jeanne Cleary’s parents were instrumental in getting this law passed.”
Now, all American colleges and universities wanting to participate in student financial assistance programs must report how crime on their campus stacks up against a state index of crime statistics. At Messiah, Burger does this according to a state mandated formula.
“Crime levels,” she explains, “are calculated to be at a probable level among an imagined population of 100,000 typical college students. The State of Pennsylvania provides us with those numbers and then we list them side-by-side with our own numbers. Parents can then assess this information and compare it with data they receive from other institutions.”
Crimes such as murder, rape, assault, robbery, and arson are all included. The US Department of Justice has labeled crimes like these “Part 1 Offenses.” They are serious crimes and, according to Maynard, they occur in our country with alarming regularity.
“A Part 1 Offense occurs approximately once every 3 seconds in the United States,” he notes. “Fortunately, that is not the case here at Messiah.”
“However,” he adds, “wherever you have any group of people together in a determined space, there is a certain level of deteriorated behavior that naturally begins to occur. People, even people on a small Christian college campus, do not always get along or behave as they should.”
Burger notes in her report that the crime rate index numbers for the year 2016 calculate to 366 burglaries, 706 thefts, 23 motor vehicle thefts, and 26 cases of arson. At Messiah, those numbers are down from previous years to just 14 burglaries, 27 thefts, 1 motor vehicle theft, and 1 case of arson. She is able to document zero occurrences in categories such as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder.
The work of the Messiah College Department of Safety under the leadership of Burger and Maynard appears to be paying off. But for this team, success is not just about low crime rates. Burger’s report also includes her vision for a department of employees who establish good, working relationships with Messiah students. Safety officers must be dedicated first and foremost to fostering a positive community atmosphere.
“Our goals for my division, including the Department of Safety,” notes Kathie Shafer, Vice President for Operations, “include celebrating our students and caring for them while they are under our watch. Our work concerns all aspects of their well-being.”
This part of campus safety work is difficult to document or measure. There are not any compliance rules requiring Burger or Maynard to report the number of times an officer provides comfort or words of encouragement. Nor are there regulations stipulating the level of trust that must exist between a student population and a security force. While Burger’s report, once finished, will be exhaustive with details, it will never adequately provide a true picture of the department for Messiah’s students.
“We are here to help, protect, and serve,” notes Safety Officer John Zimmerman. He has been serving his country and his community for more than 65 years. He started out as a volunteer fireman when he was just 14 years old. At age 18, he signed on with the United States military and a year later took a bullet in Korea. Since then he has devoted his entire life to helping others.
“It’s difficult to see someone like John getting grumbled at by someone who doesn’t want to obey our parking protocols,” says Maynard. “If they knew who it was they were grumbling at, they’d get out of their car, give him a hug, and thank him for his service.”
But Zimmerman is just one of many on Maynard’s team with an impressive track record of serving and protecting. Together, his 18 full-time and 3 part-time employees boast almost 500 years of combined community service and volunteer experience. They collectively have responded to literally thousands of emergency situations and cries for help. Their areas of experience include law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, church ministry, private security, human services, hospitality, and military service.
“I know we are often seen as parking bullies,” concedes Senior Community Safety Officer Carl Meiss. “But that isn’t us. That is not who we are.”
If you want to know who Carl Meiss is, just take a look at his National Red Cross Lifesaving Award he earned it for saving the life of a 2 year old drowning victim.
“That is a day I will never forget,” Meiss says humbly. “But when you are in a situation like that, your training kicks in. You don’t think of yourself. You are only focused on the job that needs to be done.”
Certified Community Safety Officer Elizabeth Williams could not agree more. She has been in countless situations throughout the span of her career in which she was called upon to act with courage and respond selflessly.
“I remember once having to provide CPR on a 20 year old for 45 minutes straight,” she recalls. “It wasn’t until I was 100% certain he was in good hands and was going to make it did I allow myself a break. I was exhausted but nothing could have made me quit.”
In late winter, Burger will finish the Security & Fire Safety Report. In all, she will have spent more than 100 hours compiling it. All Messiah College students will receive an e-mail from her serving as notice that the report is available for viewing. Only a dozen or so pages will provide the pertinent information which brings Messiah’s reporting process into compliance with federal law. But no amount of compliance will bring Jeanne Cleary back to her parents.
“Compliance will meet the standard,” notes Burger. “But excellence exceeds compliance. Only excellence will truly honor Connie and Howard Clery’s daughter.”