The University's commitment to promoting public safety on and near campus
I am Gary Miller, President of the University of Akron.
I am joined here this afternoon by:
- Mr. Joe Gingo, Chair of the University of Akron Board of Trustees
- Mr. Lewis Adkins, Vice-Chair of the Board
- Ms. Grace Kasunic, President of Undergraduate Student Government.
- Kate Budd, President of the University Faculty Senate.
- Jeannette Carson, Vice Chair of University Council (representing all portions of the University).
- Dr. Toni Bisconti, President of the Akron AAUP.
- Mr. Dallas Grundy, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- Dr. John Wiencek, Executive Vice President and Provost.
- Chief Dale Gooding, University of Akron Police Department.
We are here this afternoon to mourn the loss of a member of our University of Akron family.
Our student -- Maya McFetridge of Berea, Ohio, -- was tragically killed this past weekend in a senseless act of violence in an area of the City just south of campus.
It is difficult to find the words to express our sympathy for her family and friends and our grief at the loss of Maya.
Every member of this university family is precious to us. Every member of our community brings a special light, unique gifts and the potential to change us all for the better.
We are profoundly saddened that our time with Maya has been cut short. No matter what happens in our lives, all of us here will always feel the loss of this young student.
On behalf of all of the students, faculty, staff and administration at the University of Akron, I express the deepest sympathy to Maya’s family. We want you to know that even in the short time she was with us, she impacted us deeply.
We are also here today with a renewed resolve and determination to move quickly to enhance public safety for our community and ensure such a tragedy does not happen again.
I want to say to each and every person who can hear me that I am personally committed to doing whatever it takes to secure the safety of every person who comes to this university to learn, work or visit. There is nothing more important to me and this university community.
The events leading to the tragic death of our student occurred in a section of the city just south of Exchange Street.
Like other U. S. cities, our city is not immune to the rise in crime. We recognize that the University plays a role in helping to address public safety issues in the areas surrounding campus. Over the past five years, the University has attempted to improve this area.
We partnered with First Energy and the University of Akron Foundation to install additional lighting in the area. We have increased patrols of our University police in the area and worked with students to educate them on how to stay safe. We’ve held community meetings with landlords to help address issues regarding property safety. We have added a public safety module to our University mobile app to allow quicker access to public safety services.
It is clear we must do more. It is clear the University must take the lead in improving this area for the permanent residents there and for students who live in and visit others in this area.
So, with the strong endorsement of the Board of Trustees I am announcing the following immediate actions:
- I have authorized CFO Dallas Grundy to immediately and substantially increase the number of full-time police officers in the University of Akron Police Department with the goal of providing full coverage in areas on and around campus.
- I have ordered a review of our mutual aid agreement with the City of Akron Police Department to ensure we are exercising the maximum police powers allowed in outlying areas and working with great energy to increase our partnership with the APD.
- I have authorized the expenditure of $1 million to work with the City of Akron and Summit County to immediately advance the implementation of a broadband based camera and monitoring system for the South of Exchange Street area. The University has been working with the City and County on this project and we are committing the funds to get it implemented as quickly as possible.
- We will immediately implement a contract with a private company for safety support services in the area, providing additional patrols and monitoring.
- I have ordered a review and upgrade to our campus-based incident alert system.
- We will work with our student leaders to increase awareness among our student population of the great variety of circumstances we find in our urban environment.
- The Akron Police Department has committed to additional officer deployment during the upcoming home football games, including Homecoming, and other athletic events. UAPD also is coordinating with the City of Akron Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in this regard.
I am confident these measures will begin to give us control of critical areas around our beautiful campus.
However, other actions and partnerships will be required to permanently improve the environment in this important area.
So, we will take the following actions to increase our influence in these areas:
- In the very near future, the Board of Trustees and I will seek meetings with:
- Akron City Council
- Summit County Council and the County Executive
- Key legislators
- Community Business Leaders
- The Summit County Sheriff’s Office
- The Ohio State Highway Patrol
The purposes of these meetings are to make specific requests for improvements in housing and safety, draw up joint commitments and agree on actions to improve the area around our campus.
- We will request a review of zoning and the enforcement of zoning and building codes in key areas around campus.
- We will ask for greater oversight and interaction with landlords in all areas around campus.
- We will explore local, state and federal opportunities for housing improvement in areas close to us.
- We will also seek greater policing and security partnerships in important areas around campus.
Finally, the Board of Trustees has asked me to develop a long-term plan of control and intervention in the area south of Exchange Street. We will deliver this plan by the first of the year.
The University of Akron is proud of our association with a great American City. The City brings our students and our faculty and staff unique opportunities for work and learning. It provides us with opportunities to engage in solving the most important challenges confronting us. In return, our campus community plays a significant role in the educational, cultural and economic vitality of the city.
But, we are well aware cities have significant challenges.
Beginning today, and for the rest of the time I am fortunate enough to be president of this great institution, we will take every step necessary to exert influence on the areas of the city surrounding campus to make them safe for all citizens.
I despair at the loss of Maya. I despair at the loss of any life in this city to the forces of violence. I am determined to do what I can to prevent such loss of life.
I want to turn now to Mr. Joe Gingo, Chair of the Board of Trustees who has a few comments and an announcement.
Thank you, President Miller. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I also want to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our student, Maya McFetridge.
The Board strongly supports the plan that President Miller has outlined and is committed to working with him and his team to do everything we can to provide a safe learning, living and working environment for our students and employees.
As part of that commitment, I want to announce that, this morning, members of the Board of Trustees committed to personally funding a $50,000 reward for the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for this terrible crime.
We encourage anyone with information to call Summit County Crime Stoppers at 330-434-2677.