UMass neighborhood liaison to patrol off-campus housing

By Colby Sears

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

Campus and local police will no longer be the only ones patrolling Amherst streets after dark on weekends.

The University of Massachusetts is in the process of hiring a neighborhood liaison that will monitor off-campus housing and encourage proactive student behavior.

“The goal is to have a staff member who is not law enforcement and is not from the Dean of Students Office, who is walking in the neighborhoods adjacent to the campus and kind of serving to help both the students and the residents,” said Nancy Buffone, executive director of external relations and university events at UMass.

The liaison will work with both local and campus public safety officials, responding to incidents in which student behavior gets out of control. Although the weekend watchman will be responsible for monitoring multiple off-campus neighborhoods, areas around Fearing Street and parts of North Amherst are a primary concern.

“When he or she sees large numbers of students going to one particular residence, they can knock on the door and keep an eye on what’s going on … if the person is in a situation where he or she feels like they need additional backup, they’ll call the police,” Buffone said.

Not only will the liaison mediate off-campus issues from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, he or she will also work on campus during business hours two days per week.

These hours will include working closely with the UMass Police Department, the Dean of Students Office and the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life. The liaison will take the information he or she learned on the streets and use it to think about ways to mitigate any negative student behavior in off-campus neighborhoods.

Buffone is part of the committee that is hiring for the position, which is still in the early stages of its search. She said they are starting to review applicants’ materials from a “large pool of candidates.”

“I think what is key is to find someone who fits this position, who has the right personality, can mediate in different situations, can be respectful to both students and neighbors and has a sense of humor,” she said.

The job is not an easy one to fill, however. A bachelor’s degree with at least seven years of applicable experience, preferably in law enforcement or conflict resolution, is required, with a preferred master’s degree. Candidates must also demonstrate negotiation skills and be able to rapidly exercise judgment and problem solving techniques among other listed responsibilities.

Depending on a candidate’s qualifications, the hiring salary for the position can range anywhere from $45,400 to $62,500.

According to Buffone, there is currently funding for only one position. If the program is successful or if the University feels more staff is needed, they may consider expanding it.

Liaison programs like this one have proved extremely effective at Boston College and Georgetown University in the past. The search committee has worked with individuals from both schools to develop something similar for UMass, an idea that Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis have both supported.

“The person in this role will have a real sense of where UMass students are living in the neighborhood,” Buffone said. “They will be looking out for the students and residents and helping to improve the quality of life on the weekends”.

Colby Sears can be reached at [email protected].