At a Dec. 19 Board of Visitors special meeting, University President Teresa Sullivan announced several new safety programs set to begin in the spring semester, which include updating on Grounds cameras, partnering with Corner merchants to implement cameras, increasing on-Grounds lighting and lighted crosswalks, creating a patrol system around grounds, hiring new sexual assault counselors and hiring two Title IX investigators.
University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said in addition to replacing outdated cameras, the upgrade will introduce a revamped camera system for the on-Grounds surveillance system.
“We already have a very extensive network of cameras across Grounds,” he said. “What we intend to do is enhance the current system by establishing a new network for the existing cameras to operate on, thereby improving the efficiency and performance of the system. We are also relatively certain that during the improvement process we will identify some cameras that we will want to upgrade to improve the coverage and functionality of that device.”
Several Corner merchants have also said they are willing to grant the University access to their camera systems.
“We are working through that process and expect more property owners to join in as we begin to enjoy more success in this area,” de Bruyn said. “This is an area where we will need to work closely with the city and private property owners, because this is all privately owned property and therefore not under the control of the University.”
Sullivan also announced the addition of 12 new crosswalks at locations including Emmet Street, Jefferson Park Avenue, University Avenue, Copeley Road, Darden/Ivy Gardens and Massie Road. In addition, old crosswalks will be updated to the new lighting system with vertical poles. De Bruyn said the new system is easier to maintain and creates an effective visual at eye level.
The University also plans to hire 10 to 12 “ambassadors” to patrol areas around Grounds throughout the week. These unarmed ambassadors will be employees of a security company hired by the University.
“We intend for the ambassadors to be in place from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week and their area of concentration would be in the area of the Corner and the areas off-Grounds where there is a high concentration of students living,” de Bruyn said. “I would consider this program to be one that, if successful, could easily expand into other parts of the city.”
New counselors will also be hired at the Women’s Center and the University Counseling and Psychological Services. Charlotte Chapman, director of counseling services at the Women’s Center, said the new counselors will be devoted to existing programs which offer long-term support for sexual assault survivors.
“We have had Margaret Edwards as the trauma counselor for several years, [but] we have a waiting list most of the academic year for students needing services — or we make referrals to community providers,” Chapman said. “So President Sullivan and the Provost’s Office allocated funds to add another full-time trauma counselor to help expand capacity at the Women's Center.”
In addition, the Dean of Students Office will now fund a position for a post-graduate counselor which was previously funded by donors.
University Counseling and Psychological Services will also hire two new counselors to provide support to sexual assault survivors and the rest of the University community.
“The new staff members will be ‘generalists,’ meaning that they will be skilled at not only providing trauma services, but they will be credentialed to work with the broad spectrum of U.Va. students’ concerns,” de Bruyn said. “These new positions are a step toward resourcing CAPS to provide more support to students who are struggling with common developmental concerns before those concerns turn into more serious crises or manifest in making decisions with high risk for harmful outcomes.”
The University has also recently brought two Title IX investigators, who will conduct prompt and thorough investigations into complaints of discrimination, harassment, student sexual misconduct and retaliation, and assisting in proactive training initiatives.
“We believe these combined efforts will enhance important student services and the overall safety of our community,” de Bruyn said.