U hires larger security staff to bolster falling numbers

With dwindling student interest in on-campus security roles, the University recently added 11 full-time positions.

Security monitor Will Burnton receives a request for an escort on his two-way radio while walking across the Washington Avenue bridge during his shift on April 17, 2014.

Daily File Photo

Security monitor Will Burnton receives a request for an escort on his two-way radio while walking across the Washington Avenue bridge during his shift on April 17, 2014.

by J.D. Duggan

The University of Minnesota bolstered its security team by hiring the first full-time advisers onto staff, filling a need after constant turnover and thin staff numbers.

The University recently added 11 full-time employees to act as campus safety advisers. The University’s Department of Public Safety has previously depended on students for the job, but numbers have hovered at around 70-90 student employees in recent semesters. The department said it would need about 150 students to meet campus needs.

“It goes up and down because, you know, students discover what they can fit into their schedule,” said Matt O’Sullivan, director of security in the Department of Public Safety. “The decision to hire full-time staff was primarily driven by the need to get the people we need — and just not being able to hire enough students to do it.”

Hires for the department’s first full-time employees began in September. The department initially sought 10 employees but is now one above quota. The most recent hires were brought on Monday.

Security advisers are uniformed, non-sworn representatives of the Department of Public Safety, said a University spokesperson. The advisers and student monitors work closely with the University of Minnesota Police Department, often acting as a first line before calling officers.

The security team is trained in first-aid skills and a program called “verbal defense and influence,” O’Sullivan said. The department teaches the security workers how to use their voice as a tool for de-escalating hostile or crisis situations.

Turnover is a perennial issue for any student employment, especially when it comes to overnight security work.

According to O’Sullivan, places like University libraries or the Carlson School of Management can require security patrols from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

“That’s really difficult for students. You know, they’re kind of giving up their whole next day, they’re giving up their regular sleep schedule,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a lot to ask for.”

O’Sullivan said student interest in on-campus positions seem to be continually declining since he started working in late 2018. 

The student security monitor position offers $11 an hour. Off-campus minimum wage in Minneapolis is currently $11 an hour for small businesses and $12.25 for a large businesses. That number will be $15 an hour for all businesses by 2024. 

University Services Vice President Mike Berthelsen said in an email that the new security advisers play a vital role in patrolling campus buildings and helping with the 624-WALK program, a service that can be used by any University community member or visitor to receive an escort on or near campus.

“This complements the work of the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) and Public Safety Emergency Communications Center (PSECC) by allowing police and emergency personnel to focus on other safety needs,” Berthelsen said in the email.