Security aides provide safety resources in residence halls


Junior Criminology & Justice Studies major Kelli Shumate completes a round through Stopher Hall on Wednesday night, April 12, 2017 while on duty as a campus security guard. Each night, campus security guards complete rounds through the dorms to make sure doors stay locked and appliances are not left on.

Sarah Heber

As night approaches, security aides begin their rounds throughout the residence halls on Kent State’s main campus. At a time when students should be quiet and settling down for the evening in their dorm rooms, a select few are dubbed “runners” to act as the messenger for their floormates.

Sophomore sports administration major Sirya Banks, and her friends, will send a runner out to ‘go to the bathroom’ at the times security aides make their rounds. If they pass an aide in the hallway, they send a text to the rest of the group back in the room, warning them to quiet down.

Although Banks said she gets along with the security aides in her building, she and her floormates still do what they can to stay out of trouble.

“The security aides we have are chill, but we still don’t want to take any risks,” Banks said. “We know when they typically come around, and we get quiet until they pass.”

While aides enforce policies, they don’t see themselves as the “bad guy” out to get students in trouble.

“Students think we’re out to get them, but that’s not true,” said Jonathon Ishmael, a sophomore criminology and justice studies major. “We’re not here to bust you, but we are here to keep you safe by enforcing hall policies.”

Ishmael, a security aide, said the most commonly violated university policies are noise and having alcohol in ‘dry’ halls — places where alcohol is prohibited. He also noted Eastway typically has the most incidents, but it does change from semester to semester.

Matthew Jones, a sophomore physical education major, works as a dispatcher for the aides. While a dispatcher doesn’t patrol the dorms at night, Jones said he still understands the lengths students will go to hinder an aide’s work.

“We sometimes have all these outside factors working against us, and it’s frustrating because we’re just trying to do our jobs,” Jones said. “Students get so scared of us and think that we’re going to be jerks, but we’re really not like that.”

While residents can make the job a difficult one at times, the aides have other challenges to face. They work every night until 2:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. depending on the day — including times when the university is on break. Even if the university closes, security aides still must report to work.

“This job is year-round and doesn’t get cancelled when the university closes, though it’d be nice,” Jones said.

Security aides have been a part of campus safety since 1973, Brian Hellwig, an assistant director of Residential Communities, said.

For the last 44 years, security aides have worked to keep the students living in residence halls safe, but the program at Kent State differs from other universities.

Hellwig said the program is unique because the security aides fall into the category of housing rather than public safety. At other universities, housing and public safety are two separate departments. At Kent State, the Office of Safety and Security is inside the Department of Resident Services.

“We patrol the residence halls, we do lockouts (and) we do the escort service,” Hellwig said. “To the extent that we have it, you won’t find anything else like this in the country.”

Out of all the services provided by the aides, the escort service gets used the most, Hellwig said. The escort service is offered to students on campus who need an escort to get from one location to the next.

“Our priority is escorts actually,” Jones said. “If we have someone that needs an escort, we’ll make sure we get an aide out to them right away.”

Hellwig said he can tell how safe students feel on campus depending on the number of escort calls the office receives.

“We usually get two or three escort calls per night,” Hellwig said. “When we see issues occurring, we definitely see a spike in the number of escorts, which means it’s a pretty good gauge to how students feel.”

While Resident Services’ priority is the escort service, the department also provides security to each residence hall.

“We divide the campus up into five different areas and each area has two or three security aides per night,” Hellwig said. “They walk through checking (that) the exterior doors are locked and secured. Checking the kitchens, public areas, restrooms, fire safety equipment and enforcing university policies when they have to.”

It is not a job for the light-hearted, Jones said. He also said memorization is imperative to be successful as an aide.

“If you can stay up late and memorize things and walk around, it’s the easiest job on campus. But you also have to have a backbone when people get stubborn,” Jones said. “If you can’t remember things — especially when you’re half asleep at 2 a.m. — you’re going to have (a) rough time because we need things to function quickly and smoothly over the radio since (Kent State Police Department) can hear us.”

Kelli Shumate, a junior criminology and justice studies major, likes the community that comes with being an aide. Shumate is an area advisor for residence halls in the Quad — Olson Hall, Lake Hall, Stopher Hall and Johnson Hall.

“My freshman year, I had no friends and didn’t do anything. I just kind of studied and watched Netflix,” Shumate said. “This semester, since becoming a security aide, I’ve made so many friends. Not even just people in security but also residents and (Resident Assistants).”

With more than 50 students employed, Hellwig said someone who is honest and dependable has hirable qualities.

“Someone who is committed to helping students and just being a resource for students,” Hellwig said. “It’s a good learning experience for students who do want to be security aides. The skills and knowledge that they learn here, (they) can’t get from any other job on campus.”

To become an aide, students must first get hired, then complete over 100 hours of training before they go out to do rounds alone. “This is really a job where you learn by doing,” Hellwig said.

Jones helps train new hires and makes sure they know their role.

“When I’m training people, I always like to say that while we are the office of safety and security, safety does come first,” Jones said.

The training focuses on enforcing hall policies through nonviolent actions.

“(Aides) don’t have weapons per se; the only thing they have is their voice. So, deescalating a situation with their words alone is pretty powerful,” Hellwig said.

While many aides tend to be criminology and justice study majors, that’s not a requirement for the position. In fact, Jones said the position is for any major.

“Many people don’t think about it, but any position in our office can be applied to almost any major and career,” Jones said. “It all looks good on a resume, especially if you start to get promotions.”

The positions include dispatchers, security aides, area advisors and supervisors. Together these positions make up the department.

“It’s like a little unit, and we’re all pretty close,” Shumate said. “It’s nice to have people that I can reach out to who understand what I’m doing every night.”

Hellwig said he likes to have 50-55 students working for the department and with students graduating, transferring, or leaving, they are usually in need for more applicants.

When a student gets hired in, regardless of the position, Jones said “whether you like it or not, you just entered into a family.”

Sarah Heber is the safety reporter, contact her at [email protected]