Welcome back to campus! Can you believe we are beginning the Fall 2021 semester? What a crazy time! Just when we thought COVID-19 was behind us and things were getting back to normal, another round of questions, mandates and guidelines have roared back to the forefront. The difference this year is this isn’t new to us. We have solid experience, plans and processes that were developed and implemented during a successful 2020-21 academic year. While we hope restrictions are limited and COVID cases are low, it is critical we all do our part to keep our entire community healthy so we can live, learn and enjoy the Clemson experience to its fullest.
We have learned a lot over the past year through the challenges and struggles we faced, including COVID response, social justice issues, mental and emotional stressors and crime impacts. The potential for these challenges continuing through 2021-22 is present and Clemson’s Public Safety departments want to ensure you we are providing the resources and services to the entire Clemson community through the achievement of our core purpose – enhancing safety, reducing risk and preventing harm.
This is not an outcome achieved by individual entities. Successful planning requires every person making up the Clemson community working together toward a common purpose. It requires us to understand each person, regardless of their position on campus, has the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference. We work daily to instill this mindset into all our staff members and encourage them to “Be the One” to make a positive difference in the lives of our students, staff, faculty and guests. As we begin another semester during a time that brings challenges on many fronts, I hope we can depend on each of you to help us keep Clemson safe, secure and enjoyable.
As we work together to address safety, security, health and wellness across the Clemson enterprise, there are specific issues that keep me awake at night.
Drugs and alcohol seem to stay on our list of high-risk behaviors. Regardless of your personal opinions on this issue, there are a few items I wish to share that everyone should know. The presence and impact of the opioid crisis has not skipped over this region. Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties are experiencing opioid overdoses and the presence of counterfeit pills that resemble legal prescription medication. We have not observed or seized any illegal substances fitting this description on campus; however, it is important for everyone to be aware of its presence and potential danger. We are currently engaged in an information campaign to educate our community and prevent a tragedy associated with this trend. Bottom line – never take any prescription medication that is not prescribed to you and that you don’t receive from a physician or pharmacy.
Alcohol use is also a concern because we see the negative impacts it can have on individuals as well as their associates. Binge drinking continues to be a precursor for activities that result in both legal and academic consequences. These negative outcomes are not constrained to the individual engaged in the alcohol consumption.
Research clearly details that others, including roommates, friends and complete strangers, are impacted by poor behavior and bad decisions caused by alcohol-induced actions. To prevent injuries and other life-altering impacts caused by alcohol, CUPD and other campus partners are working collectively to balance education and enforcement. Many entities across campus will be sharing information at various times about bystander intervention, responsible drinking habits and possible consequences of poor decisions.
Likewise, enforcement activities focusing on proactive intervention that prevents unwanted outcomes will be part of our comprehensive risk-reduction and harm-mitigation strategies. It is important to understand our actions are strictly focused on preventing life-altering incidents, thus, often requiring us to intervene before situations reach a tipping point.
Across the country, we continue to see polarization focused on political beliefs, social justice issues, special interests and COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. Each of these situations create the opportunity for activism and conflict. We understand the importance of free speech and are committed to ensuring individuals and groups have the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns in a safe and secure manner.
Over the past year, we have worked closely with a number of organizations across campus to support protests, demonstrations and other protected activities. We have successfully communicated and assisted these efforts through a collaborative partnership, which will be our approach going into the new year. We are available to work with any group to ensure University policy, legal requirements and safety protocols are shared and implemented, allowing all voices to be heard.
Likewise, it is important to recognize that this polarization can create fear and safety concerns among members of our community. These concerns can occur based on local events or activities happening in other parts of the state or country. We are sensitive to these situations and work regularly with our partners across campus and in law enforcement to investigate and address reported cases.
While situations may not rise to a criminal level, we still encourage students, staff and faculty to report suspicious or concerning behavior to the police so we can utilize our array of tools to examine the incident and determine what action may be appropriate to address the concern. Incoming reports will allow our team — which includes a variety of law enforcement resources, as well as advocates and other support agencies across campus — to provide the best response.
Finally, we can’t forget about the potential for crime. Clemson is a safe environment and we want it to remain that way. It is easy to feel that crime will not impact us in our small part of the Upstate of South Carolina; however, we know crime can happen anywhere. That is why it is important to always remember a few key points:
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Travel in groups or with a friend whenever possible
- If using ride-share services, check the vehicle description and driver to make sure you have the correct connection
- Do not take drinks from strangers and protect your beverages from being spiked
- Be aware of the effects of mixing drugs and alcohol; avoid drug use and remember drugs are often cut with other substances that can cause severe reactions or death
- Protect your personal information to avoid harassment, stalking or cyber attacks
- Watch out for your friends; be an active bystander and don’t allow a friend who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to leave establishments with strangers
Your Clemson experience will create friends and memories for a lifetime. Our desire is to ensure those memories are filled with joy, happiness, and hope for the future. If we work together to support one another, be engaged and create an environment built on respect, consideration and grace, we can have a great year. My pledge to you is our public safety team will do our best to provide you excellent services in support of a campus where safety, learning, exploring and personal growth thrives.
All the Best,
Gregory G. Mullen
Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police