Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

DPS Negotiates Contract

In response to the five bias-related incidents that have occurred on and around campus since Oct. 27, [students banded together to advocate increased wages and benefits for Department of Public Safety officers last Friday]( Today, the university and DPS’ union, Allied International, will sit down to the negotiating table.

Contract negotiations take place between the university and Allied International once every three years.

The current round of negotiations – centered on a proposed hourly wage increase of $4 to $5 for DPS officers – began in July. Georgetown’s DPS officers are currently among the lowest-paid campus security officers in the District.

Officer Antony Johnson, the current DPS union representative, said the proposed wage increase will attract more qualified starting candidates. He stressed the need to increase the pay rate for senior officers as well, noting that a starting pay rate increase without a parallel wage increase for senior officers would be unfair; newcomers could, according to Johnson, earn the same salary as officers who have served the Georgetown community for years.

Johnson also characterized negotiating a pay increase as the most important issue for officers, citing it as the primary reason for the high turnover rate. Additionally, he stressed the need to maintain a full force of campus security personnel.

In 2007, DPS was successful in negotiating a pay increase. Johnson attributed some of the deal’s success to the support of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, which organized rallies on behalf of DPS.

The wage increase, however, was not sufficient in DPS’s broader effort to improve the working conditions of its officers.

After working at Georgetown for three years, Maurice Hunter quit his job as a DPS officer a month ago to pursue a more appealing post in Baltimore. He perceived low morale among staff as the most pressing problem he observed during his time at Georgetown. He cited examples of three or four other officers who have left within the last month.

“People want what they aren’t getting,” he said.

Hunter also said that more training needs to be provided to officers.

“Current training is inadequate to provide a safe environment for Georgetown,” he said.

Hunter witnessed few measures taken by DPS to prevent these crimes while he worked at Georgetown. According to Hunter, officers were notified when these crimes occurred, ordered to increase patrols in Village A and told to encourage students to lock their windows and doors.

For Hunter, many of the problems associated with DPS’ performance were a result of understaffing. He noted that many officers work primarily on weeknights, when there is typically less campus activity. In contrast, Hunter said, there were inadequate numbers of officers scheduled to work on weekend nights.

Concerns like Hunter’s mirror those articulated by the coalition of students that has mobilized in support of DPS officers. Students have mobilized in response to the bias-related incidents that have occurred on and around campus since Oct. 27. Members of the coalition see a connection between student safety and DPS officers’ working conditions.

On Nov. 6, the students presented an open letter to the university expressing their support of DPS officers by invoking Georgetown’s foundational commitment to social justice. Co-signers of the letter include the newly formed Campus Student Safety Coalition, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, GU Pride, GUSA, Catholic Daughters and others.

Spiros Dimolitsas, the senior vice president and chief administrative officer of the university, delivered a letter in response.

“[We stress] mutually respectful, effective and cooperative relationships with the labor union representing DPS officers,” the response letter stated.

The response letter also emphasized factors outside of wage increase, such as health care, training and professional development opportunities as “. important benefits for our employees.”

According to Chessa Gross (SFS ’10), a member of GSC who participated in a meeting last week between student activists and university officials, Dimolitsas said that he believed the pay rate was a third or fourth priority of DPS officers.

Carter Lavin (SFS ’10), a co-signatory of the open letter, launched a student safety patrol following the bias-related incidents of this school year. Lavin said he created the group as a way to maintain momentum after the strong campus response to the incidents.

Lavin said that he does not see the most recent occurrences as anything new. Instead, he views them as a continuation of behavior he has observed throughout his time at Georgetown.

“People get beat up, mugged, robbed all the time. Security hasn’t changed much over my four years. That’s ridiculous . I feel that there has been more violence at Georgetown. I want Georgetown to be safer,” Lavin said.

With negotiations ahead, DPS officials remain uncertain of their chances for success. Johnson identified a large gap between the demands of the union and the position the university has taken. He did, however, express faith in the negotiations process. Johnson said that the gap between the two sides’ agendas was seemingly insurmountable in 2007, yet the two parties reached a satisfactory conclusion.

“We proved that we were unpaid,” Johnson said.

With the backing of an active part of the student community, Johnson said he hopes that this set of ongoing negotiations yields a similar result. “

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