By Samantha Cooper
Goucher College recently welcomed its newest Head of Public Safety, David Heffer. He was one of the two final candidates for the position, which opened after the former head, Rick Puller, announced his retirement last year. Associate Dean of Students Andrew Wu, who helped with the hiring process, said that Heffer was “a good fit” and had “very specific knowledge of the issues he’d be dealing with [at Goucher].” Heffer arrived on campus in early August.
Heffer previously worked at George Washington University in D.C. where he was responsible for coordinating special events and administering a self-defense program. He also worked at a security consulting firm that provides protection to colleges and universities. Part of his job at the firm included working with a number of small colleges, including Davidson College and Williams College. During this time, Heffer helped provide training to faculty members on how to manage critical incidents such as “active shooter situations to Acts of God” which include tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other things beyond human control.
Heffer said he chose to work at Goucher for a number reasons, including its location in Towson, its proximity to Baltimore, and his attraction to the “small liberal arts college environment,” which he said developed while working as a consultant and trainer.
While there are differences between Goucher and George Washington University, the only difference Heffer saw was that students from George Washington are drawn to “a more urban and larger atmosphere.”
Since he hasn’t been at Goucher for very long, Heffer isn’t sure what his all of his plans are just yet. One of his current ideas is called “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design,” which is just what it sounds like; Heffer wants to “evaluate the environment to make sure there aren’t many places to hide…that kind of stuff.”
Another thing Heffer is also looking to change at Goucher is the students’ view of Public Safety.
“I want this agency to engage and have better relationships with the college community—students, staff, faculty, everybody,” he said.
Heffer added, “I think law enforcement in general has a pretty sullied reputation. There is a lack of trust, not just in this agency but departments around the country. I want to again, through this outreach, build those relationships again. Build that trust.” He did not give specifics as to how he plans to carry this out, though the plans should become more clear once Heffer has a better idea of what the campus needs, and how it works.
One change on campus that he has been involved with is the overnight guest registration. This new policy, which was implemented at the beginning of the semester, requires all overnight guests to register with the Office of Public Safety. Overnight guests will be asked to carry a temporary Guest Pass—which they will receive upon registration—and be accompanied by their host at all times.
According to Heffer, this will make hosts more accountable for their guests’ actions, and ensure safety in case of an emergency. The policy does not cover guests who visit Goucher for community-wide events, nor does it cover those coming on to the campus for a walk or to use the library. Both Heffer and Wu noted that policies regarding the latter type of campus visitors may change.
Goucher is by no means a dangerous school, but it isn’t the safest either. Certain events involving campus visitors last year showed that to be true. Heffer, however, seems prepared and excited to be working at Goucher.
“There’s definitely a vibe here that I don’t see on a lot of campuses,” he said. “There’s a strong sense of community.”