Gary Granger on Medical Amnesty, His Commitment to Student Care, and Canyon Cats

Last week the Quest reached out to Director of Community Safety Gary Granger to learn more about the CSOs on campus. During the interview, he touched on their services, animal control, transportation services, some temporary staffing shortages, and a few misconceptions about the CSOs.

Granger emphasized the importance of their mission statement: provide a safe college community through collaboration. “There’s a lot of components to it. It’s everything from making sure the doors are locked and buildings to responding to fire alarms, to helping people get safely across campus, to monitoring campus for people who might be here for reasons that are not good, to enforce the policies, doing emergency preparedness,” Granger explained. “Our most popular service is door unlocks, hands down.”

“The reason I’ve been here for a long time in my career is that Reed has a clear, well-defined mission,” said Granger. “We educate undergraduate students in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. That’s all we do. We don’t want to get bigger. We don’t make a profit. We don’t have shareholders. So all of our decisions are based on how we provide the best possible education as well as a great working environment for staff and faculty.”

Another significant component of the CSOs’ role is to monitor for disturbances on campus and to ensure that it’s not affecting student life. Granger elaborated on the cat presence on campus: “The campus cats are a little vexing. As a cat person, I love cats. And outdoor cats are the single largest predator for songbirds in our environment,” said Granger. “There are other cats that wander on and they’re not, they don’t really purport with our policy,” he went on, referring to Reed’s animal policy.

The CSOs use three main methods of transportation on campus: driving, biking, and walking. “Different transportation modalities offer different advantages and disadvantages, Granger said. “A car is relatively fast and is weather protected. We can give people rides, we can carry a lot of equipment, so I can carry a jump pack for cars and AED, a big first aid kit, and so forth. The disadvantages are being disconnected from the humans and the environment. You can’t hear and see as well. And it’s much more difficult to interact with people as you’re going around in your job.” 

“The bicycles might be the best of all worlds in some ways,” Granger continued. “Because you can move faster through campus on a bike in many cases than you can in the car. And you’re available to people. You can talk to people as you’re going through the community here and see what’s going on. The disadvantage of the bike is weather sometimes, and also you can’t carry a lot of the equipment that we would want. For walking, you’re more connected. But you can’t move as quickly.” Granger, also the instructor for Mindful Walking, expressed that walking is his favorite modality.

Granger also briefly addressed some recent staffing issues at community safety since COVID and with some more recent vacancies. “We’re a little shorter on staff than I would like to be, and that means that the CSOs are working more,” explains Granger. “And people are working a fair amount of overtime. Because it’s 24 hours a day, somebody has to be here. The good news is we have made offers that have been accepted for two new people who will start [during fall break] and start in our training program. A third person, I expect to make an offer today [Oct. 11]. And we need a new night shift manager, and that position has just been posted. And so we’re on the path, hopefully, to fill in the vacancies fairly quickly.”

“It affects us in a major way,” continued Granger. “Because I have managers sometimes helping to fill shifts, and we have people working overtime. And — more than I would like — we will occasionally have one CSO on duty for a few hours. And that stresses all of us, for sure. The idea is that the community doesn’t feel the difference. That’s really the goal. And so it will take us a little bit longer sometimes to get to non-emergencies. But the goal is that we always get to a fire alarm right away, we always answer the phone when you call, and that we’re always monitoring the systems like the access control system and so forth. So I’m confident that right now the community probably doesn’t feel much of a difference on a service level. That’s the goal.”

To conclude, Granger clarified some rumors that he heard about medical amnesty. “Medical amnesties are real. It’s been real since 2011,” stated Granger emphatically. “Because every phone call for help is probably preventing some level of harm for someone. And everyone who doesn’t call for help, because they’re afraid or they don’t know when they should, increases the potential for harm. We do between 30 and 50 medical amnesties a year, which means people are calling us and trusting us, but I don’t want anybody out there thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m actually gonna get in trouble if I call.’”

Granger went on to speak about some personal challenges he has faced when encountering the incoming class each year. “The challenge that I try to address every year is how do we let people readjust their idea of the people in uniform that we’re here on campus to not police, right. We’re not police. We don’t arrest people. We don’t carry guns. We’re not trying to find people doing things wrong. It’s not our objective. We’re actually here to help folks. And so, you know, [the challenge is] trying to find ways to connect with students individually as humans.” Granger cited initiatives like the trading card program and bringing Voodoo donut trucks to campus as two examples of trying to foster a connection with the student body. 

“We care about the place being welcoming, and safe. And harm reduction is our primary goal. And even though we are supposed to — and will — enforce rules, that’s not where we begin thinking about. I care about you and your well-being in the college, that’s why I’m here,” said Granger. “The CSOs that have been most successful, and I believe that means happiest here, are ones who love interacting with students and others on campus.”

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