Safety and Security: A Divisional Priority

Published On: August 8, 2018

At Residential and Hospitality Services (RHS), the goal remains what it has always been: to deliver outstanding Spartan experiences.

Perhaps the most critical element of delivering these experiences is providing a safe and healthy environment in which students, guests and team members live and work. Each RHS department strives toward this goal in various ways, often teaming up along the way. It’s this collaborative effort that propels the division to create an environment that functions as an enjoyable, safe place for all students, guests and RHS team members alike.



In support of RHS’ values of Purpose, Practice and People, the RHS Health and Safety Office serves as the main contact point and resource center for the division on a variety of issues including Occupational Health, Life Safety and Security, and Emergency Management.

RHS Health and Safety Coordinator Joe Petroff ensures the Planning and Projects Office (PPO) acts as a resource that provides training, expertise and advice when it comes to safety and security.

Petroff describes the importance of his role, saying, “Engrained within RHS values is the imperative to provide spaces that are safe, clean and free of hazards for residents, guests and team members. Maintaining high levels of safety and security is a standard of care that supports and demonstrates how much we value one another.”

Throughout 2018, RHS Health and Safety will continue to offer Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training to key RHS team members in partnership with MSU Police. FEMA’s mission: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of “A Nation Prepared.” FEMA is the lead federal agency in the U.S. for disaster preparedness and response, and provides training, resources and federal assistance.

In 2017, RHS Health and Safety continued to enhance and support university emergency management and continuity of operations planning, which included providing FEMA incident command system training to 86 RHS leadership team members, MSU faculty/staff and professionals from around Michigan.

PPO also works closely with MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) to assess the needs of buildings as they age, taking into account  maintenance necessary to maintain building safety based on age and time. Ensuring the safe operation of heating and cooling units, following up on environment hazards (such as mold and flooding), and inspection, testing and maintenance of life safety systems are a few examples of issues that, when incorporated into a plan, allow PPO to respond in a financially responsible and prompt manner.



The Breslin Student Events Center is one such area where safety and security control are of particular importance. Jeff Latinen, Breslin Student Events Center manager, speaks to why safety and security are so important to him and his team:

“Security is the bedrock of the success of our building mission for both the daily and event goals,” he explains. “We strive to provide a building that can host successful events that are safe in all capacities and help enhance the university mission. This includes safety of parking, entry ways, seating, etc.”

The building staff at Breslin, part of RHS Spartan Hospitality Group (SHG), is responsible for monitoring the entrances and exits on both a daily and event basis. To make this possible, the team must work with a multitude of building partners including MSU Police and IPF to grant access to entry ways. Recently, there have been many precautions taken at Breslin to ensure visitor and team member safety.

Latinen explains, “We now have metal detectors on-site in use for all large-scale events and a no-bag policy.”

In addition to the new policies, the Breslin team has worked both internally and externally this past year to implement social media tactics when thinking about patron safety and security to increase awareness of the new security protocols, which in return, helps create a better Spartan experience at the Breslin Center.

“Our goal is that a visitor’s experience is not impeded by any type of danger,” Latinen says.



SHG isn’t the only unit of RHS that has taken a heavy social media approach to promote safety and security. Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) has also taken to the web to provide safety information to students, guests and team members using campaigns such as Safety Awareness.

Made up of representatives from across RHS and its campus partners, such as MSU Police, the Safety Awareness Campaign is led by the REHS Communications team. The committee meets quarterly to discuss current issues on campus. Messaging for residence halls and apartments has included posters, table tents and social media that cover a range of topics, including personal safety, cybersecurity, drugs and alcohol, mental health, and safe celebrations.

REHS also uses the MSU Live On Twitter and Facebook accounts to communicate best practices and link to information about fire safety, personal safety, the MSU emergency notification system, the reverse-911 system, emergency green phones and door access in the residence halls.

The reverse-911 system is used in halls with telephone landlines to broadcast emergency instructions as well as to contact students with emergency information. Emergency green phones, on the other hand, are used in residence halls without landline room phones and are installed on every floor. This allows anyone with a safety risk or concern to quickly get to a phone with one-button emergency capability, greatly increasing emergency response time.

Door access in the residence halls is built around electronic building access technology restricting access to the exterior doors, living wings and elevators in all residence halls. In addition, living wings are locked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a valid MSU ID card is required to gain access to living wings and to activate elevators within the residence halls.

While physical safety procedures and precautions are important to RHS, also contains information on mental health resources available to students living on campus, such as Olin Health Center and MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).

“Mental health  diagnoses are increasing in number across the country,  and for a number of reasons,  and in our world at MSU, we have always focused on mental  health  because everyone is going to have a time where they need some resources  in their life,” Associate Director for Academic Initiatives,  Student Behavior and Leadership Mackenzie Fritz notes. “When it comes to the severity, we need to make sure our staff has access to these resources and is properly trained.”

These resources mentioned include a variety of community partners, safety plans, and first and foremost, training in crisis management. Assistant Director of Residential Student Conduct Maja Myszkowski explains just some of the training RHS team members complete.

“At least once a year, all of our live-on staff, including community directors, assistant community directors and resident assistants, are trained on mental health in general. What we focus most heavily is QPR. It is the process that is nationally known for talking to students who might be suicidal: Question, Persuade and Refer. They are trained and prepared to ask those challenging questions. We also have a flip-book resource with step-by-step procedures, and in addition to getting all this information, the grads and our [resident assistants] have a role-play simulation where they act out a scenario where there is a student in distress and they learn how to deal with it,” Myszkowski says.

Myszkowski represents REHS on the behavioral intervention team, which includes the Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Student Life, Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).

“Another thing we do is implement and utilize our Residential Learning Model, which is fairly new,” Fritz says. “It is a co-curriculum learning model, and one of our learning outcomes is ‘Spartans will employ strategies for wellness.’ Specifically, we create strategies.”

These strategies include directing in-hall staff to focus on wellness in the months of October, November, January and February.

“History teaches us that October and February will be our highest incidents of mental health concerns in the halls,” Fritz explains. “So, in these months in the building, we do things specifically targeting mental health.”

In January, for example, resident assistants (RAs) are required to do a “res chat,” which is a one-on-one chat with each resident.

“The philosophy at REHS is really trying to educate students on the skills they need to remain healthy by providing students the resources and trying to teach them how to know the signs,” Fritz says. “In order to teach the signs, one must recognize them.

That’s why it’s so important for our in-hall staff to know their residents.”

RAs also create bulletin boards about wellness that are placed in the hall for all residents to see and interact with. In February, other strategies are implemented and focus on both passive and active strategies regarding mental health. An active strategy implemented is the use of “care’s meetings.”

“Anytime a student is transported to the hospital for any reason, medical, mental health, alcohol transport, we follow up with a ‘care’s meeting,’ which is a structured meeting where they are offered resources,” Myszkowski says.

The REHS staff are concerned about the physical and mental health and safety of MSU’s students. The Safety Awareness Campaign, proper training of team members, and other necessary implementations allow the division to support students and team members in their successes by bringing attention to the health and safety issues they face.

“Most crimes are those of opportunity, and education can help reduce the number of these crimes, along with the regulations and technology we have put into place,” says Assistant Director of Communications for REHS Bethany Balks. “For other health and safety issues, the university offers resources to help prevent and aid students, and we want to make sure they are informed of those resources.”

One of the most recently developed resources to the benefit of mental health awareness in the residence

Halls is the implementation of embed-ded counselors.

“Six months ago, we began a program in partnership with CAPS where we have two counselors in residences currently, one in East Neighborhood and one in South Neighborhood,” says Fritz. “They are present in the community so students can utilize them. And this is brand new, and we are really excited about that partnership.”

Partnerships are an essential part of maintaining safe practices to RHS as a whole, and the residence halls continue to work with numerous units to maintain and ensure safety.



“We don’t exist without other units and partnerships, so we have to meet their needs,” Information Services (IS) Assistant Chief Information Officer John Letarte says. “Anytime someone is hired, they put in a request to us, and we add them into the system and give them specific access to what they need. That triggers a whole bunch of other things like creating a login account, creating an email, an account on systems like the hotel management system or the REHS room management system called Mercury.”

This process of hiring on is essential, as is the process of when someone leaves the company.

“For security purposes, we keep track of all their account information so we call pull all of that access back if we need to. That way, they can’t go back and make some sort of transaction when they are no longer working for us,” Letarte explains.

Student privacy is also a big part of the job in Information Services.

“For example,” Letarte explains, “if you connect a cash register at the golf course and it needs to go to the hotel’s management system, there are credit cards involved and they[the IS tech team] have to understand every point along that encounter and all the security pieces that are in place. There’s a lot of training on that and knowledge they have to pick up, and we have lengthy regulatory requirements that they have to meet.”

It’s crucial IS structures their training correctly so all team members are in compliance with the requirements in place. Team members must be aware these requirements exist and why they’re structured in a certain way. In training, physical safety is also a main point of focus. Every manager must complete site-specific training. However, some teams require additional focus.

“IS is made up of a bunch of different teams, and they have different roles. The tech team, for example, can go into any hall or workspace in the division so they have to be aware of the safety concerns if they’re working behind a kitchen or a front desk or in facilities somewhere. They also work with cameras and mounting things on the walls so they have to understand lifting, ladder safety, food safety, etc., so we go through all the training,” Letarte says.

The network team, another unit within IS, must be trained in electrical hazards because they often work at the data center, which has high voltage and a large battery system.

“General safety is a focus that primarily the tech team and network team need to be aware of because they do run around a lot on campus and they’re in different areas and have to be aware of their surroundings, where they’re at and what type of work they’re doing,” Letarte says.



A constant theme throughout all units, general safety training, is especially apparent in Culinary Services.

“In Culinary, safety always comes first,” Senior Executive Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski explains. “Staff must be aware of what they are preparing, how they are preparing it and what they are preparing it with.”

To ensure safety in food prep, all full-time team members must go through two half-day training sessions called Serve Safe. The training includes information about cross-contamination, salmonella, proper cooking temperatures and proper storing techniques as well as an allergen training portion that identifies the eight major allergens on campus menu items: milk, eggs, soy, nuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, alcohol, beef and pork. At the end of the training, team members are tested on their knowledge.

Culinary Services works with REHS, MSU Athletics, the Alumni Association, summer conferences and camps, SHG, and other partners to offer a variety of healthy food options at all campus residential dining halls and retail food venues, including menu items to support ovo-lacto vegetarianism, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free diets.

“Most recently,  we launched a web- based program called MSUtrition where people can look at every ingredient and recipe we use and are serving,” Kwiatkowski explains.  “There are allergen filters so you can select which ingredients you cannot have, and it will show you what you will be able to eat. But also, we encourage that face-to-face contact with the students and want to talk to the students about our process. We want students to know we are here and they can come talk to us.”

To emphasize the chef-to-student relationship, Culinary Services launched a campaign fall 2017 where executive chefs and MSU Registered Dietitian Gina Keilen wore stickers on their uniforms to encourage communication in hopes that students would start a conversation about the food served.

“The students on campus really connected with the promotion,” Culinary Services Marketing and Communications Manager Cheryl Berry says. “I was trying to find a way for our students to connect with our chefs to foster more in-person communication. Currently, many students resort to social media when they have problems with their food preparation. The hope is that by knowing their chef in their dining hall, they will feel more comfortable approaching them to correct the problem.”

In addition, Keilen is always available to meet with students regarding allergies or specific ingredient concerns or who require information on a menu item not listed on MSUtrition.

“I think the only way we can be successful is if we partner and communicate with our students and our other units,” Kwiatkowski says. “It’s imperative because we can reach so many more people that way and it has that much more value to it. We talk about ‘delivering outstanding Spartan experiences,’ and with those partnerships, that’s how we are able to do what we do and give those experiences.”



As RHS dives into the new year, delivering outstanding Spartan experiences will always be the goal. But ask any team member and they will all tell you the same thing: The only way to reach this goal is through communication, partnerships, and ensuring a healthy and safe environment for all students, guests and RHS team members alike.