Police team joins class to research behavior

By Sky Opila

In an attempt to put out a campaign about pedestrian safety that students will actually listen and respond to, the University Police Department has been working closely with the students in the classroom.

Lt. Skip Frost, patrol division commander for the University Police, has been working with a speech communication class called “Issues and Processes for Public Information Management” in order to build a successful awareness campaign.

“We hope to have a communication plan to offer to the (University Police) so they can have some sort of plan of attack of how to create the culture of compliance with the students and people, such as faculty and staff, on campus,” said Erinn Mitchell, sophomore in LAS and University Police case study team leader.

A culture of compliance means changing the culture from one where people cross against traffic signals into a culture where everybody waits until it is their turn to cross before doing so, Frost said.

“What we’re looking for is for people to cross at the crosswalks; to cross when they have the right of way; and that if they’re not sure if a vehicle is going to stop, don’t take the chance,” Frost said

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The class is set up in a way that there are seven different case studies throughout the classroom. Each case study has a specific job it is trying to accomplish. The case study with the University Police is titled, “Where the Sidewalk Ends: Can’t We All Just Get Around?”

“The students have worked very hard to research the students, faculty and staff to determine the issues of the pedestrian safety culture that has emerged on campus, and they are in the process of developing some possible strategies to gradually change the culture,” said Kris Campbell, the teacher of the class.

In order to successfully accomplish the goal of voluntary compliance, the six students involved in the University Police case study have been putting out surveys to find out how people get their information and what kind of knowledge they have about campus pedestrian and vehicular safety.

“The biggest goal that we wanted to have was to understand how students get their information, and (Lt. Frost) wanted us to create a culture about the pedestrian, vehicle and bike safety on campus,” Mitchell said. “We’ve done a big survey that was passed out to 500 students just kind of randomly throughout. We also did an online survey to try to reach adults on campus.”

Frost said that there are certain components that need to be inside of every successful pedestrian safety campaign. He said that when the proper components come together, there can be full voluntary compliance within the boundaries of the law.

“Any successful pedestrian safety campaign is three E’s: education, engineering and enforcement,” Frost said. “The University and the cities surrounding it worked very hard to engineer the campus to make it more pedestrian-friendly. (Even) with all the outreach things we have done, it’s not enough.”

Currently, the speech communication students are analyzing the data and will soon have results that they can put together in formulating a successful awareness campaign. With this awareness campaign, the department will try to successfully fulfill the education part of the pedestrian safety campaign. However, the road to a successful campaign is not easy. It cannot be approached like a marketing campaign, Mitchell said.

“When you do a marketing campaign you have an actual product that you’re pushing or trying to get out there,” Mitchell said. “Our product is your safety.”

In addition to the difficulty of coordinating the awareness campaign, Mitchell said there is a continuing need to be careful not to offend the general public.

“It’s really crucial that you don’t offend anyone, but at the same time it’s just so important to get across to them so you almost have to be forceful,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of walking that line and figuring out how to get information to people.”

When the fall 2006 semester comes to a close, the students in the course will be able to hand over finalized plans of action to their clients. For the University Police, this is simply another measure taken to ensure the safety of everyone on campus in every way they can, Frost said.

“If we can build a culture of compliance … everybody is going to be that much safer,” Frost said. “Our ultimate goal is that we have zero injuries and zero fatalities.”