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Upcoming changes to Ryerson Community Safety and Security

September 09, 2019

Ryerson University is part of a vibrant and diverse downtown environment including students, faculty, staff, and hundreds of daily visitors. We want our campus to remain a people-friendly, safe, and inclusive environment for all Ryerson community members. 

As we welcome a new cohort of students to the Ryerson campus, the Community Safety and Security department will be entering a period of change after hearing from community members that safety in the downtown core as they come to and from the campus is a concern. 

On August 16, 2019 Ryerson asked the Toronto Police Service (TPS), to approve a proposal for designated Ryerson employees to have special constable status. The special constables would be Ryerson employees, and would be part of the Community Security and Safety team. If approved, the addition of special constables will enhance the department’s ability to address the changing needs of our campus. 

Strong precedent for special constables across Ontario universities

Currently, there are nine Ontario universities with special constable programs, which are either fully responsible for campus security or are employed in combination with security crew members. We have consulted with several universities to discuss best practices, in conjunction with extensive consultations on our campus. 

Proposed changes are based on extensive consultation

In the spring of 2019, Hamlin Grange, external link (president and principal consultant of external consulting group DiversiPro, external link), led consultations with students, faculty and staff concerning safety and wellbeing on campus, and to explore alternative security service-delivery models. As a diversity and inclusion strategist, Hamlin assists organizations to work towards greater inclusion of the stakeholders they serve.

This series of consultations builds on information we have been gathering since 2016 from a variety of sources, including: 

  • Results from the National College Health Assessment Survey for students in 2016 and 2019.
  • Focus group consultations including students, faculty, and staff in 2017.
  • Extensive security incident data from 2016 to 2018. 
  • Feedback in the form of emails and letters from members of the community from 2016 to 2018. 

We have learned that there are safety concerns amongst community members, with some individuals citing that they change their behaviours on a day-to-day basis in order to feel safe and secure. We recognize that each individual’s lived experience informs their perspectives of safety and security on campus. While some may feel more secure with increased presence of uniformed personnel, others may feel the opposite because of their lived experiences. Our goal is to provide safety resources and services that recognize both of these realities. We know that our community members have expectations that security personnel are approachable and friendly, and embody Ryerson values. They need to have strong training in unconscious bias, anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion. Moreover, they need to have an awareness of their impact on community members and a strong knowledge of de-escalation tactics.

Our approach will continue to evolve and be informed by further consultations with community members, including consideration of any recommendations that will be put forward from the Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review led by the Office of the Vice-President of Equity and Community Inclusion (OVPECI). 

Results show the need to improve our current service-delivery model

Input from the range of Ryerson stakeholders has shown that the current Community Safety and Security  service-delivery model requires enhancements. Currently, our security guards are contracted by GardaWorld, providing 24/7 coverage of the campus and responding to front-line calls. In addition to CPR training, they have advanced medical knowledge, including Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) training. However, they are limited in how they can address increasingly common security incidents on campus, including incidents involving assault, vandalism and theft, as well as the enforcement of smoking by-laws and traffic control. 

During the 2019 consultations, three service delivery model options were presented to the participants for consideration: 1) more security guards, 2) only special constables or 3) a mixture of security guards and special constables. 

The third option, a hybrid model with a mix of security guards, the careful engagement of special constables, and community ambassadors – garnered the most support. On June 26, 2019, the department presented a series of recommended changes to Ryerson’s executive group that are aimed at better meeting the requirements of our campus, including this third option.

Our vision of change

If Ryerson’s proposal is approved by the TPS, the department will move forward with a phased implementation approach beginning in 2020. Special constables will be Ryerson employees with Ryerson values and will be accountable to both the university and the TPS Board. They will join Ryerson’s current team of security guards and community ambassadors, acting as a liaison to City of Toronto emergency services. They will respond to emergency calls for service on campus, including reports of vandalism, assaults, and robberies. They will have the authority to address some of the issues that security guards currently cannot.

The changes will also be enhanced by a series of measures, including:

  • An oversight process that will monitor and investigate complaints about interactions between security personnel and community members. 
  • A Community Safety and Security Liaison Committee, comprised of representatives from the community, which will provide advice and insight to the department about safety and security concerns.
  • The prioritization of hiring individuals who reflect the diversity of our campus community.
  • A robust intercultural competence assessment, training and development process with the inclusion of such topics as unconscious bias, anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion for all personnel. 
  • Professional standards for security guards and special constables reflective of Ryerson values that meet public expectations of professionalism and consistency of service.

If the special constable proposal is not approved by the Toronto Police Services Board, Ryerson’s Community Safety and Security department will nevertheless explore how we might implement the recommendations above to improve safety and security on campus and to strive for enhanced transparency and accountability. 

Other security improvements in the works

How we communicate during emergencies

We heard from community members that in the event of emergencies and campus closures they would like more frequent information to be shared. In November 2019, a mass notification system will be implemented that will automatically broadcast alerts through multiple communications channels (including emails, text messages and push notifications through a mobile app). This will get information to the community quickly so you can make informed decisions about your personal safety. 

After-hours building access pilot project

Based on feedback regarding after-hours access to buildings from community members, four campus buildings (EPH, SHE, RCC, and VIC) have been chosen for a pilot project that will restrict after-hours building access to those with a OneCard. More information on this will be available in the coming weeks.

Bicycles for front-line crew patrols

Ryerson community members currently occupy more than 56 buildings on campus and this number will continue to grow. Our security guards offer 24/7 coverage of the entire campus, responding to non-emergency medical calls, WalkSafe requests and more. Given the size of the campus, we have increased the number of security guards outfitted with bicycles and trained through the International Police Mountain Bike Association. The addition of more bicycles will increase their mobility and improve response times and coverage of the campus. 

We want to hear from you

I want to thank all our community members who provided feedback, either through the consultations or through other means. 

If you have additional information you want to share or discuss, I encourage you to reach out. We will continue to communicate with Ryerson students, faculty and staff as more information becomes available.

In the meantime, I encourage you to learn more about the resources available to you, including our WalkSafe Program and personal safety planning sessions, where you can meet one-on-one with a member of our team. Please contact us if there’s anything else we can do to further support you on our campus.


Denise Campbell
Executive Director, Community Safety and Security