Css attributes

Eric Sullivan Hired as New CSS Manager – The Williams Record

Sullivan, who likes to be known as “Sully”, has worked in public safety for 13 years. (Photo courtesy of Eric Sullivan.)

Eric Sullivan will replace Dave Boyer as Director of Campus Security Services (CSS) effective Sept. 27, Vice President of Finance and Operations Mike Wagner announced Sept. 10. Sullivan’s hiring comes as the College community grapples with issues surrounding racism and police misconduct in Williamstown and nationally.

Sullivan began his career as a police officer, serving with the Hazelwood, Mo., and Maplewood, Mo. Police Departments. Sullivan walked away from police work in 2014 after protests swept through Ferguson, Mo. , in response to the murder of Michael by the police. Brown, a black teenager.

After a brief stint in private security, Sullivan began working as a public safety officer at Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) — a historically black college in St. Louis, Mo. — while pursuing a degree in criminal justice. . There, Sullivan told the Disk, he focused on working closely with students and building community. He was promoted to Acting Director of Public Safety in July 2020, which he says proved to be a good synthesis of his passions.

“By working in higher education, I could do what I was good at — which is law enforcement and working with people,” Sullivan said in an interview with the Disk. “I could also do what I wanted” – working in education – “which was my dream, being a law enforcement officer on a college campus.”

Sullivan emphasized the importance of his time at HSSU working with students from diverse backgrounds, which he says will stand him in good stead in college.

“Dealing with students of color, students from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds, [and] first generation students [has] been amazing,” Sullivan said. “It prepared me for an opportunity like Williams because, from what I’ve heard, you have all the walks there.”

In hiring Sullivan, the College followed its usual process. Finalists went through a series of interviews with various committees, including a student advisory committee and a larger selection committee made up of faculty, staff, and students.

Manny Copeland ’23, who served on the student advisory board, said she supports Sullivan’s hiring. “We thought [Sullivan] was highly skilled,” she said. “And I believe he will be able to create positive change. During his interview, he showed that he has a lot of critical thinking skills about how to… reform the culture here… in order to move towards solutions that are both anti-racist and more empathetic for students.

Although she said she thought Sullivan was a worthy candidate, Copeland was critical of the hiring process as a whole. She said the selection committee prioritized the poor qualities of the candidates it reviewed, which led to most of the finalists being, in her view, ill-equipped for the job. Sullivan, she said, was the exception to this pattern.

“The selection committee was looking for good police officers when they should have been looking for people who would be good at social work and needed social change on campus,” she said. “[The candidates] had a strong track record in training police forces and training military forces that would not be needed on a college campus.

Yunjin Park ’23, who also served on the student advisory committee, agreed with Copeland’s sentiments. She said she was surprised that the selection committee did not pay more attention to finding candidates with a background in social work.

“I had also thought that they would try to bring in more social work applicants.[s]and was surprised when applicants were largely drawn from police careers,” Park wrote to the Disk. “I understand that ‘campus safety and security’ requires a certain type of knowledge, but… it was odd looking at police/military resumes while thinking about the most common CSS roles at Williams.”

College Dean Marlene Sandstrom, who chaired the selection committee, said the committee sought to balance safety and fairness concerns. “In developing our objectives for the search, we identified two key factors,” Sandstorm wrote in an email to Disk. “1. Someone committed to treating each member of our diverse community with dignity and respect, and to developing policies and practices around empathy, compassion and civility 2. Someone with operational experience to keep our campus members and community safe.

Sullivan said the skills that make him a strong candidate for the job were acquired, in part, since he was a police officer. “I am joining the Williams College community for three main reasons,” he wrote in an email to Disk. “My ability to work with and develop diverse teams, my experience in crisis management, and most importantly, my experience and philosophy of community engagement on campus. All of these experiences were established as a police officer and developed as a campus public safety professional.

Unlike the CSS, whose officers do not carry firearms and possess no law enforcement powers, HSSU public safety officers can detain students and are armed – although they are not not sworn law enforcement officers and do not have the power to make arrests.

In light of a series of controversies surrounding racial injustice and incidents of police misconduct that have inundated the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) over the past year, Copeland also stressed the importance for the College to use its resources and influence to help the city develop fairer policing standards — a sentiment Sullivan said he shares. Sullivan said he hoped to act as a liaison between the university community and the WPD so that “we can solve the problem and work together.”

“I’m a representative for all of you,” Sullivan said. “It’s my responsibility…my plan is to work directly with the WPD, identify… [what] the [College community’s] concerns are, bring them to them and find ways to improve what’s going on.

Sullivan also said he hopes to build trust between the student body and CSS, which he said he has achieved by working with HSSU students.

“The majority of my students at Harris-Stowe come from areas where they don’t trust their law enforcement,” Sullivan said. “They come from families and backgrounds that have never trusted law enforcement, and it’s my responsibility to earn that trust…I walk into every conversation, especially when I don’t know someone.” one, seeking to earn that trust.”

Sullivan expressed hope that he can develop strong relationships with individual students and that the CSS as a whole will follow his lead.

“We are going to involve the community more,” he said. “I’m the type of guy who will come to everything from hockey games… to open mic night. I will be Eph. That’s what’s important to me. And it’s important that the rest of the department [are Ephs] as well as.”

In addition to building community between CSS and the student body, Sullivan said he hopes to lead a department and create a campus where everyone feels safe, regardless of identity. “I’m a black man,” he said. “I’ve worked in places where I may not have been welcome, I’ve grown up in places where I may not have been welcome, so I understand that. But what I also understand , that’s how to build trust in groups. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years. And I’d love to do it here.