On May 22, the College announced that a committee of students, faculty and staff appointed Michael Sweazey as director of Campus Safety. Sweazey officially started on July 1, and outgoing Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper has worked with him in a limited capacity through the summer to ensure a smooth transition.
Sweazey’s office is decorated with old badges and police caps, and, with Canadian rock band Rush playing in the background, the new director looked fully settled. With Hooper’s going-away party planned for this Friday, Sweazey said Hooper helped him get up to speed.
The appeal of working at a place like Kenyon dates back to Sweazey’s own time in college: Sweazey started as an electrical engineering major while at college at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tn. After falling in love with a criminal justice class, Sweazey switched his focus to sociology and began working for the university’s campus safety department. After having this experience, Sweazey said he has always wanted to return to working at a college or university.
Sweazey comes to Kenyon after spending 25 years in the United States Secret Service in Atlanta. More recently, Sweazey served as the director of the Office of International Safety and Security at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., a large university with over 30,000 students.
Support for the new director has come not only from the Campus Safety staff and Hooper, but also of Kenyon and Gambier. “The whole population—the College, the Village and everything—has been really kind to both me and my family, and that’s helped out a lot,” Sweazey said.
Sweazey says he looks at safety in a very holistic sense. He discussed how a Secret Service study revealed the importance of an emphasis on mental health and wellness for ensuring campus safety.
“College is stressful … Everybody goes through things. Whether it’s just the transition, whether you may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other issue, the percentage of people that are suffering from those things is huge,” Sweazey said. “So we need to be there to address it, to help people through it.”
Campus Safety will have “a very tight bond” with Chris Smith, director of the Cox Health and Counseling Center, and Kim Cullers, nurse practitioner and associate director of health services, Sweazey said. He is also ensuring that the college’s Campus Safety officers are trained in mental health first aid.
While the Campus Safety officers won’t be counselors, Sweazey said they will be able to help students and direct them to the resources they need. He is interested not only in working with the Cox Health and Counseling Center but also with departments all across campus. He hopes to make himself widely available.
“I hate sitting here in my office,” Sweazey said. “One of the things I loved about the idea of working at a university or a college is being with the students.” He said he plans to eat many of his meals at Peirce.
“If I’m sitting there and [students] have got nobody better to sit with, I want them to come up if they have any questions, if they have any comments, or if they want to talk about board games or anything else—I want to be out there with them,” Sweazey said.
Approachability applies not just to Sweazey but to Campus Safety as a whole.
“We want [students] to know that if they need something at all, even if we’re not the main ones to take care of it, we will help them find the right place,” he said.
Campus Safety is the one department open and staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sweazey emphasized that this is not limited to safety and security alone.
“If you’re up at 2:30 in the morning and you’re walking around, whether you are homesick, whether you’re worried about whatever’s going on, the one person you know is going to be out there walking around with you is an officer, and our dispatch is open,” he said. “If they just want somebody to chat with, trust me, that officer that’s up at 2:30 in the morning, he probably wants somebody to chat with also. Basically, we are just there for them, to help them take care of what issues they need, and to make them not only be safe but feel safe.”