An email went out to the university community on December 9, 2020 from David Heimburger, Vice President and CFO, about the retirement of the Director of Public Safety, James Moran, scheduled for February 28, 2021. Another university-wide email from the President, Dr. Fred Pestello, a few days later explained that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) is to report to new leadership, the Vice President of Student Development, Dr. Sarah Cunningham, who started at SLU in February of 2021. Notably absent is any communications about the development of a search committee to fill this crucial position at the university, especially considering it will be led by Dr. Cunningham, surely capable, yet still new to Saint Louis University. A knowledgeable and representative search committee is imperative.
Why are no actions being taken to create a committee to vet those interested in filling this senior, critical position? We need to make sure we hire a DPS leader who meets well-developed criteria and is a good fit for our Saint Louis University community. Has the selection already been made, without such a process? If so, is this person a friend of someone in senior administration or already in the DPS? We are concerned that SLU is going to follow past history and simply “appoint” someone who developed a relationship with the senior administration. This should not be allowed to happen.
With the President’s stated interest in making this “structural shift…to more-intentionally integrate DPS as playing an essential role in the student experience,” it is essential that students play a role in choosing who fills this position. Their experiences are distinctive, and what they are looking for and rightfully expect from the Director of Public Safety for their community should be heard. A diverse group of students, staff, and faculty, along with current members of the DPS, is essential to ensuring that the right replacement is selected. Dr. Cunningham and the university community deserve this commitment to inclusion and engagement.
With all that is going on in today’s world with regard to the training and actions of law enforcement, a collective response and diverse input from our Saint Louis University community is essential to choosing the new leader of DPS. The university needs to make certain their public safety department is led by an individual who knows, understands, and respects our unique environment and mission.