Episode 50: Fountain Walker, Vice President, Global Campus Safety, New York University
Fountain Walker, Vice President, Global Campus Safety, NYU
Fountain Walker, Vice President of Global Campus Safety at New York University's Department of Campus Safety discusses his role in the Department with Karen and shares his vision and insight regarding safety here in New York City and on campus.
Fountain leads the Global Campus Safety arm of NYU Campus Safety, which consists of over 300 uniformed public safety professionals and global support units; specifically, professional standards and accreditation, investigative/victim services, external affairs & protective services, special event security management, training and Clery compliance while providing comprehensive security services to over 60,000 students, faculty and staff across a global network. He also served as Chief of Police at University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. and Davidson College, Davidson, NC.
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Karen Ortman 00:31
This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety. Welcome to the debut episode of Season Four of You Matter. Thank you to all of our returning listeners and subscribers for your continued support. We are excited to welcome new listeners for season four, which will feature inspiring stories, interviews with changemakers and discussions with service providers both in New York City and across the country. I'm your host, Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Fountain Walker, Vice President of Global Campus Safety at NYU. Fountain is here to discuss his role in the Department of Public Safety, as well as share his vision and insight regarding safety here in New York City and on campus. Fountain, welcome to You Matter.
Fountain Walker 01:25
Thank you, Karen. It's great to be here.
Karen Ortman 01:27
Fountain, what is your background in public safety.
Fountain Walker 01:31
I initially went into law enforcement after leaving the Marine Corps in 1994, became a municipal officer in a small town, Cornelius, North Carolina. And then from there, my career just I guess, kind of kept that path. So, from municipal law enforcement to being an on campus law enforcement administrator at a small college, Davidson College, some of you may have heard of that institution, I spent about seven and a half years there. And then from there, I had the opportunity to grow and experience and also the size of the agency, I went to the University of Chicago. I went there to work on their community policing program and community engagement, and ultimately ended up becoming the Chief of Police in 2015.
Karen Ortman 02:19
So you went from law enforcement, a municipal police department, to Davidson College, were you sworn law enforcement?
Fountain Walker 02:28
Yes, we were actually sworn, you'll find in places like North Carolina and I won't just say down south, but definitely, quite a few institutions have their own police departments. The idea behind that is the police department is trained and better equipped to engage the community that is on that campus, not saying that municipal law enforcement can't provide services, but my experience, being a police chief in a small college like that is that you can really be face to face. You can really engage and have conversations and moments with the students, faculty and staff that you serve.
Karen Ortman 03:03
So you left Davidson College and went to the University of Chicago where you said you became ultimately the Chief of Police at University of Chicago Police Department.
Fountain Walker 03:13
Karen Ortman 03:14
Can you speak to the the difference in your municipal law enforcement career where you originally started, and the transition to college policing at Davidson, and then the University of Chicago.
Fountain Walker 03:30
Interestingly enough, my municipal law enforcement experience is actually what opened the door for me to go work in higher ed, my police chief came to me and my partner, Bubba Wally, and talk to us a little bit about community policing and what that would look like. So in the early, you know, mid 90s, there was a lot of conversation about law enforcement and how you engage with the community building relationships versus enforcement, trying to solve problems with community members. During that conversation, he basically told Bob and I, there's problems in our community, definitely with the minority population, let's build some inroads, let's figure out how to solve problems, go forth and prosper. That's basically what he did for us. So we went out and we started just talking to folks, you know, going into the store, stopping at the parks, and just having conversations about how to solve problems. Through that, I came in contact with other community volunteers, and some of them actually were volunteering from Davidson. They were students and faculty, and some staff that were doing volunteer programs, and I had an opportunity to engage. What I'll share with everybody is one of the reasons I really got excited about the opportunity to work in higher ed is my family and I had the opportunity to get our first home through Habitat for Humanity and this house was just a blessing for us in and great opportunity for my Police Department and other community members to come together. During the spring break 18 Davidson College students showed up to work on my house. And I was floored by that moment in time when these young people who would be at the beach doing you know, hey, don't stop, get it, get it, whatever, we're at my house, helping me and my family build a home. And so from that moment on, I was just intrigued about it. And through, you know, those building those relationships with that, with that group, and some of their staff leadership, I was able to start doing board work, became a member of the YMCA board, a couple of different private community service entities, I was on their boards as well.
Karen Ortman 05:51
And this was while at Davis?
Fountain Walker 05:52
This was while this was back, before I went to Davidson, and then I got to Davidson, I was asked to be in a more, you know, different leadership position. It kind of grew from there, so a lot of community work, a lot of committee work, a lot of face to face with the different groups around the community, and definitely at Davidson, what I loved about Davidson, is the students would challenge you. You know, so Chief, why do you guys give people tickets or why do you arrest people? And then you start talking about. You know, not it's not just about safety with us, it's about education. From my perspective, the department police, whether on campus or off campus have an opportunity to develop learning outcomes for their community members. I can talk to you about situational awareness, de-escalation, or just different types of problem solving moments in time. We can have those moments, we can educate each other, you can talk to me about how you perceive who I am and how I engage. That was the one thing that really attracted me to higher ed and kind of pulled me away from the municipal piece, those opportunities were more prevalent to speak to people. I would listen, and then the beauty to be higher ed versus law enforcement versus municipal is, you could probably enact it a heck of a lot sooner. It's not something that had to go to the town board or had to be talked about via committee, if it made sense and it didn't cost much money, you can make it happen. Interestingly enough, when you talk a little bit about Davidson, and then the transition from Davidson to the University of Chicago; the University of Chicago, actually was more similar to my municipal experience, because at the university, it was not really expected from law enforcement to engage with the students, they' are truly there for safety and enforcement. What a lot of folks don't realize is, that police department provided services for 60,000 actual residents, that doesn't include the university community.
Karen Ortman 08:01
Fountain Walker 08:01
So what we have there is a call center just like any regular 911 Center, and a community member, who's not an affiliate of the university, can call that department and a police officer will be dispatched. So, it's an alarm, or there was a theft, or I've had a domestic issue, so I was back in around municipal. It was it was different, the inroads to the students were a little hampered.
Karen Ortman 08:25
Yeah, that's interesting, though. So the police department, University of Chicago Police Department responded to calls for service beyond University of Chicago?
Fountain Walker 08:38
Six and a half square miles worth.
Karen Ortman 08:41
So where did you draw the jurisdictional boundaries between your department and Chicago PD,
Fountain Walker 08:48
There was none. It was complete overlap. It was truly a partnership. So we could get there first, or Chicago Police Department and get their first. We dealt with the same thing.
Karen Ortman 08:57
Wow. So what if one department thought the other could get there first? What was the communication?
Fountain Walker 09:03
It's yours? If somebody got there, it's yours. There were times it was like that, depending on their resource deployment that we may have one or two officers more in the area than they do. So yeah, absolutely.
Karen Ortman 09:15
So how long were you at Davidson?
Fountain Walker 09:17
I was at Davidson for eight years.
Karen Ortman 09:20
And you left for University of Chicago? How long were you at University of Chicago?
Fountain Walker 09:27
Seven and a half.
Karen Ortman 09:29
And at some point, as you were the Chief of University of Chicago Police, you got an opportunity in New York City at NYU, right? How did that happen?
Fountain Walker 09:44
Talk about opportunity. So there's a gentleman by the name of Marlon Lynch, who also served as the Vice President of Global Campus Safety here at NYU who has been a mentor to me starting around 1999 to this day. What he did was afforded me an opportunity to move beyond the operational responsibilities of a department to be in a position where I could learn a bit more about strategic planning and have a little bit more diversity in my management portfolio. So I decided, yes, I'm going to give it a try. That's how I ended up here. Coming here, I had to definitely change my mindset around what I was accustomed to as far as personnel. You're going to always have the same kind of things to deal with. You got folks that are on board, you got folks that are say it's time for change, and then you change something and it's like, who moved my cheese? That's not fair. I knew you wanted to change something but I didn't know it was me. So what? You go through these things. Along the way I have come to really enjoy the NYU community. As we continue to grow professionally, as our department becomes more comprehensive to address the many different public safety things that come up, I'm looking forward to that. I definitely am.
Karen Ortman 11:15
University of Chicago was in a setting similar to NYU?
Fountain Walker 11:21
I would say similar. Yes.
Karen Ortman 11:24
And the student body, the University of Chicago was similar?
Fountain Walker 11:30
Actually more graduate students there. And the undergraduate class was not definitely not as big, nowhere near NYU. The students will say, you know, University of Chicago - where fun comes to die. So it is different, right? If I was at Davidson, where there was a party life, there were fraternities who were obvious, it was all on campus. So, it's all encapsulated. It's this very identifiable town gown. You go to University of Chicago, and it's like, theyre are areas that we know are University of Chicago, and they're solely University of Chicago, but there are University buildings that peppered and landscape. So there is intermingling between residences and businesses and some of our academic and administrative buildings, right? You get to New York. Oh, wow! So here everyone is like, this is my campus, Washington Square Park is mine, and I'm like - okay - I hear you talking, however, Washington Square Park is public, the sidewalks are public, the places that we are in general are public. We have buildings, NYU does have quite a few, 221 buildings. Within those buildings our public safety officers have a certain amount of authority that's given them by the institution but beyond that, is security, which is different for me, right? We dealt with enforcement, we were able to enforce state local laws. Now, it's how do I address this issue? How do I resolve this problem just using my presence and my mental skill? Right? We have quite a few folks who know how to do that quite well, they know how to de escalate. One of the things that we are really trying to work on is not just the de-escalation, but how we interact with difference. I think that's the way I'll put it, how do we interact with difference. We have a very diverse community and in that it is not just about ethnicity, right? There's age, there's gender, there's socio economic; there's all kinds of wonderful opportunities for us to engage our community properly and build relationships. So I'm going to ask you your own question, based upon your statement. How do you guide your personnel to interact with difference? A lot of it, I think, is by example, It's easy to put something on paper and say, this is what you need to do, right? But the entire, not just myself, but the leadership team has to exude that. We have to look for those moments when we can be in front of our folks and show them exactly what that means and what it looks like. Then of course, also have afford them the opportunity to be taught right to engage with our Office of Global inclusion, or to talk with students directly. That is one thing that I really want to see happen more, more conversations with public safety officers and students. We can talk to me all day, you get a sense of who I am, but I don't want it to be a situation where we see or don't see those folks who are providing that important service to us every day so they become wallpaper. You have some that have really great personalities and then I've heard students say, you know, that person is kind of stale; they're are like wallpaper. So, how do we how do we help with that? I think it's a joint effort; it's leadership within Public Safety, but it's also students, faculty and staff taking a chance and saying, let me say hello today, I don't normally say hello, but I'm gonna say hello. That first, second or third time, it might kind of catch them off guard but I think that if we as a community embrace this idea of togetherness, if we embrace this idea of respect for each other, I think we can have a community of respecting not just a difference, but no fear of engaging, and engaging properly. Sometimes folks like myself, I consider myself to be mature, kind of get caught up into this idea that what I say shouldn't really hurt your feelings, or what I say shouldn't be taken so seriously,that's not how it works. It's kind of two sided, where I'm asking the personnel, who themselves, in some instances, are quite mature to understand that, and take a moment to learn a little something, but then ask the community for their patience, and then to kind of help with that a little bit. So, help me find those moments where we can all engage, and maybe do a little teaching session where everybody kind of gets a picture. Everyone's not gonna buy into that and that's part of life. So, we just have to come to a decision about how are we are going to address it. My expectation is, if we say we are professional, then we're going to be professional. If we say we're striving for excellence, we're gonna strive for excellence. But most importantly, we are one community.
Karen Ortman 17:03
Inclusive, very inclusive. What does a typical day or week, whichever you would like to respond to, look like for Fountain Walker?
Fountain Walker 17:18
Okay, I mean, some days are pretty nice and chill. But I'll think, like here recently, especially with the election, is what is going on in Washington Square Park, are students out in the park, are there large gatherings, what is law enforcement doing? There's a group of people that I communicate with, and give them updates on what we're seeing, if we have any concerns, or anything that we need to notify the community about. That can start at six o'clock in the morning or it can start at 10 o'clock at night. Generally, it's me updating the leadership team to anything that may be prevalent, or kind of on the horizon early in the morning. Throughout the day, it's different things. You may call me and say, Fountain, we have a matter that we need to address, and I'm like, okay, cool Karen, damn, alright then we go and we deal with it. That could be a number of things; it could be me walking and having a conversation with a public safety officer about what's going on with their family. And, I'm in numerous meetings with senior leadership. So in this role that I'm in now, I spend a pretty good bit of time listening. It's all really educational for me. I jokingly say I'm looking behind the curtain. I've never really had that opportunity before. So now I'm behind the curtain, and I'm kind of like, Okay
Karen Ortman 18:23
Yeah. How are you finding engaging with the community, whether it's faculty, students, or staff in this remote environment that we are currently living in, which is a COVID environment? How do you think that has impacted your ability to serve the purpose that you're here to serve; giving the community that feeling of safety and security that we're here to provide?
Fountain Walker 19:15
Alright, so I got a couple of perspectives. First perspective is me Fountain Walker on Zoom, I think I'm the same guy. I feel like I make the same facial expressions, I feel like I still kind of go like what, okay, and engage directly but when you think about the community...so I've had some engagement with students over zoom, it is different, because in person, and I won't say just because of my my past history line of work, but I'm accustomed to looking at a person and there's body language that's evident, right? Zoom, you're pretty much neck up. I don't know if you're fidgeting or not. If I'm saying something that's making you fidget then I'm going to say, are you okay with that, right? Those little nuances and things that you don't have the opportunity to observe and tget a cue from. They're not there right at this moment because of Zoom. But, I do feel with Zoom, I can now speak to quite a few more people. I can look at someone and say, okay, tell them all to come on, we can fit 60 people on this call and we can make it happen. Right.
Karen Ortman 20:26
And the message is still the same, regardless of delivery.
Fountain Walker 20:29
The message is still the same. The one thing that I do feel, and this is more or less for the security services folks - folks in uniform, is when we're here, in part, it's different for them. When COVID first kicked in there was an expectation, a university wide mandate, basically go home and you security services folks are - they're essential - as we all are, but when it comes to your role and responsibility, they have a very specific job and it was evident after a period that they felt abandoned. That's just observation in conversation with some folks. And so we have some work to do in that regard. And, it's not just security services, folks, it's anybody that had to be here. Believe it or not, seeing faculty staff, having those moments with those folks is very important. A lot of people are home now and they want to come back to work. They're like, God, I don't want to be in the house. Right?
Karen Ortman 21:39
Yeah. In what ways can you identify the manner in which you have contributed to the safety of the NYU community? Considering or not considering COVID? At this point, what contributions would you want our listeners to know about that they might be unaware of.
Fountain Walker 22:06
So I will let you know, first and foremost, it's not my contribution.
Karen Ortman 22:10
It's your leadership.
Fountain Walker 22:13
We have a number of awesome team members who have spent an inordinate amount of time working with our public health professionals, our human resources folks, working with our residential housing folks to ensure that logistically the public the PPE is distributed properly, to ensure that the access is appropriate, to ensure that we have screeners in place to make sure that folks have been tested. I'm very proud to acknowledge their work, and the community is ecstatic about that. We don't always think of public safety in that logistical kind of role and responsibility, but that's also a part of emergency management. We have a group in the unit, the Global Resiliency and Safety, that's their role and responsibility, they played a big part in that. And also in your area, as well, with the Security Services, folks who are here to ensure that the researchers can get in and get out of their buildings and in doing their best to keep the property and people that are here safe. 6500 students in housing, right, we've had officers on posts continuously. So those folks being there, from my perspective, for me, what's important to do, is to show up, to encourage, and to do my best to provide or ensure that they have whatever they need to do their jobs so they can be successful. Ultimately, what I want is individuals that feel confident and competent in what they're doing. COVID has definitely had an impact on that, because we have now had to insert a whole other layer of policies and operational processes. They're pretty good about adjusting and kind of adapting to what we have to deal with, so I'm really proud of everyone that's been involved at this point. I can't imagine, you know, especially housing res-life, I got to give them kudos.
Karen Ortman 24:12
I agree with you. A lot of people deserve kudos, because, in spite of the difficult times, things are getting done, and people are communicating, cross sectionally across the university. So, let's get into the weeds for a few minutes about other parts of your job as Vice President. And, let's talk about security alerts and timely warnings. What are they and what is the difference between the two?
Fountain Walker 24:47
How do I make this simple? So a security alert is one of those things that we need to let the community know immediately. Technically, there's some threat that may not be to the whole entire community, it may be, you know, to a particular area that you need to be aware of, and possibly stay away from. Okay, a timely warning. Generally, when we utilize a timely warning it's a situation where, let's say, and unfortunately this does happen in a city where there's been some sort of inappropriate sexual contact between someone, and an individual touches one person and then they touch another person. What we find is a trend. So this person is engaging community members and or, you know, others in an inappropriate way. We have a duty to issue a timely warning to let folks know that this is something that they need to be aware of and be cautious of and stay away from.
Karen Ortman 25:46
Is there ever a time where a security alert or a timely warning would go to only specific affected people or when they are issued, are they sent out to the NYU community at large?
Fountain Walker 25:50
Security alerts are generally going to be specific or can be specific. Timely warnings is something that we send out to the entire university.
Karen Ortman 26:16
Fountain Walker 26:16
There was one location, one of our schools, was experiencing a number of thefts, and we couldn't catch the individual within our building. Because of this, it was known that they were a non community member, so that was an isolated kind of thing and that community received the information specifically for them because that seemed to be the only place that they were were active. Eventually they were found.
Karen Ortman 26:45
I have heard of crimes happening around campus and there's no security alert issued. And members of our community come forward to Public Safety asking why, why not? Why has a security alert not been issued? Under what circumstances would that be the case?
Fountain Walker 27:15
I think there may be maybe two circumstances that I can think of. One of which the individual may be the perpetrator of a crime, or whatever, was apprehended. Sometimes people get information after the fact and so by the time the person that comes and speaks to us to ask the question, the person's actually been apprehended. Another piece is, we have very specific geography that we're responsible for and we're required by the Clery Act to provide some sort of notice to the community. If it doesn't happen within that area that we have identified as Clery reportable, we may not send out that notice.
Karen Ortman 27:56
So a person being apprehended, who has committed a series of threats, why does that not result in a security alert or a timely warning?
Fountain Walker 28:11
Because the threat no longer exists? They've been apprehended?
Karen Ortman 28:14
Got it? How about regarding school closings for inclement weather? For example.
Fountain Walker 28:21
Roll of the dice!
Karen Ortman 28:21
How is that decision reached as to whether to close NYU?
Fountain Walker 28:25
I have a bird. No, I'm just joking. So that's a conversation. Prior to the conversation, let's say weather event, we have two vendors that are providing us very up to date information about significant weather events. Based on the information that we receive from them we make that determination. Usually, if it's not too severe, it's usually the day really early in the morning before the workday starts. We have to keep in take into account, usually students are here, but we have a large number of staff who live in other states. If we're going to close the campus, we need to try to get that notice out as quickly as possible. The other piece is sometimes it's also contingent on the school system, and that really does matter, the public school system. So, the public schools come out like the night before and say they're closed, we're probably going to go ahead and close too, because what that means is quite a few of our employees will have kids in school. Now this is of course pre COVID but that really plays a role. So a decision isn't made simply about classes, it's also about the personnel that are impacted by it, so it's a broad decision that needs to be made. These things are taken into account. So, yeah.
Karen Ortman 29:44
We have a high school senior who is considering applying to NYU. What safety tips would apply to someone who has never been to New York City before, just like any person who has been, or is even from the tristate area and is considering NYU? What would you tell these potential students with respect to safety in and around NYU?
Fountain Walker 30:16
I think one of the most important things irregardless of where you are in the world is situational awareness, It is just being aware of your surroundings and understanding that, you being aware of what's happening in your immediate area is very important. And. it's not just about potentially being a victim of crime, it's you. I live in North Carolina, I have family there and everything and so, you know, you come to New York to cross the street, it's different than crossing the street in North Carolina. Yeah, and you know, just because the red light tells the car to stop, first of all, doesn't mean they're going to stop here in New York, and the bicyclists aren't going to stop, right? Situational awareness; take a moment, pause, take a look around, familiarize yourself with your transportation, familiarize yourself with the layout of the area that you're going to come to. It's okay to take a look at a real map, okay, fine, use Google Maps or whatever it is you want to use. It's okay to do that just to, kind of, get a sense about the when and the where. Plan your routes, plan your day. It's okay to do that till you get acclimated to the area. When I first got to New York from Chicago, I remember walking across Washington Square Park, to go towards Sixth Avenue of the Americas was a journey for me because I was like, wait a minute, where is it? Right? Left or right? And like I said earlier, I'm mature, so I'm like, I'm not pulling out that phone. I know it's like...man, I lick my finger to see which way is the wind is blowing? You know, you get to the campus, especially if you're going to do the tour, talk to your your tour guide about some of the things that they do., because they're kind of, I think, at that point wise to the area and the ins and outs, Have those moments and those conversations. And, then when you get here to NYU, come and watch and have a moment with Public Safety.
Karen Ortman 32:14
Fountain Walker 32:15
So we do programming around safety in the city, and I would love to meet you.
Karen Ortman 32:23
Absolutely, I agree. I echo that sentiment. Let's talk about this past summer, where there seemed to be some concerns shared by students regarding NYU's relationship with the NYPD. There was a heightened sense of awareness of police presence in and around NYU which caused you to issue a statement on July 29, 2020 regarding NYU's relationship with NYPD. Can you talk about that and share the reason for the statement in the first place?
Fountain Walker 33:12
So, NYU has Public Safety officers, and what we have aresecurity licenses, so officers only have the authority that's given to them by NYU. We don't have enforcement authority, we don't have the ability to to arrest, nor, are we supposed to physically be engaging with anyone to tell ou the truth. What we do is really about access control. So, a person coming into a building, the officer recognizes the person or the person has the appropriate credentials that allow them to access our buildings, right? So that's the limit of it. And also certain emergencies; an active threat situation where we need to get people taken care of, fires, or different things like that, kind of that basic safety responsibility. We have to utilize NYPD because if there is a criminal act, law enforcement has to be called. There's certain things that we're mandated to do, one of which is reporting felonies and missing students, hat's an actual mandate that we have to abide by. There is a document that explains that, why we have to call NYPD. Community members also have to understand that individuals have a right to call law enforcement when and if they feel they need to.There's nothing that we can do about that. Just know, especially in the dorms, right? That's your home, that's your apartment. We don't allow or have NYPD just going into our buildings. However, if a community member calls the NYPD for an emergency, that's different. But, in general, NYPD doesn't come into buildings so much to hang out. We've had some reports of NYPD coming in and accessing in the building for a few minutes and it turns out that they were using the bathroom. I've concessed that in those instances if the individual needs to use the bathroom that they wear a mask, and we've even gone so far as to identify areas where they could go to that did not put our community members in a position where they were interacting with law enforcement unnecessarily, so we've done that. But ultimately, NYPD, law enforcement in general, if they're called they come. There's also been conversation about ice, and how, and when, and who. Okay, so again, the dormitories or even in our academic or administrative buildings, if somebody in that capacity shows up, there's an expectation that the appropriate documentation, warrant or something is visible. But even then, your public safety officers are to engage leadership, who in turn would contact the appropriate office on campus to review that documentation to ensure that it's appropriate. Now if it's appropriate, hey look, we have to abide by the document. Thus far, to my knowledge, I've only had an instance where ICE and somebody else was on campus, but it was for a program it wasn't to remove anyone to my knowledge. I have not seen or heard of that happening to date.
Karen Ortman 36:29
Okay, what about the homeless population in and around NYU? There's obviously a presence which seems to have increased and the presence seems to be in areas where they didn't exist previously. What is NYU or the Department of Public Safety doing about this issue? How can you keep the community safe when you even stated that you you have no law enforcement powers, or enforcement powers, so what is the answer?
Fountain Walker 37:21
Well, I mean, the reality, in this is services, right? The you know, it's COVID,its services. We're in a really, we're in a conundrum actually. Because government, actually, look at the the city itself, their ability to provide the appropriate services and housing isn't there. Then, you look at COVID, where we have individuals and families who find themselves impoverished. They have no other options so they're going to go to places that visibly look and feel safe. If you think about Washington Square Park, ultimately, it looks and feels safe. Nobody's gonna mess with me here, right? The law enforcement piece of this is limited because they have actually been asked not to address, it. The big concern about law enforcement and homeless is also mixed in with mental illness and other issues; are they prepared to, how can they, what do they do? And then, unfortunately, we have had some incidences across the nation where people suffering from mental illness, I've had it happen within my own family, and law enforcement interacted with that person in such a way that it was detrimental. It wasn't helpful to the situation at all. So they are kind of like - look, hands off -we don't have any diversion yet, no one has any diversion yet. No one really has the answer. We have our observations, we have our problems, no one has the answer. So from my perspective, what we can do is spot checks. I know that sounds crazy. It's not our role it's not our responsibility, but at the same time, we are all human beings. So what opportunities that we have to engage peacefully to ensure at least that this person is okay. Sometimes we have to talk to them about blocking the sidewalk, but in that moment, it's also an opportunity to say, okay, they look like they're okay. Also engaging homeless services and any other nonprofit that could provide assistance. Those are the types of things that NYU Department of Public Safety tries to do. We look to and work towards advocacy with students, faculty and staff about this very same thing. If we as a community are trying to find ways to resolve these very visible and concerning issues, maybe we can come to solution quicker. The Winter is coming and these folks are going to start looking for warm places to be, I would too. So, how do we help? It's easy to walk by and say, hey Fountain, there's a tent city over there. Yeah, okay, true. Now, what?
Karen Ortman 39:57
Got it. What would you like listeners to know about NYU and the Department of Public Safety.
Fountain Walker 40:11
We are truly here to provide an environment where individuals can participate in the academic mission and feel respected and feel like we are truly one community. What I would like to see is for us to really actively work towards that. If there are issues that we need to confront, let's talk about confronting them and confront them. The longer you walk around with eggshells in your pocket, and throw them out in front of you, and walk on them, or walk around with all the bad things that happened to you in your backpack, and whenever something happens, you pull them out, that just shortens your life span. How can we proactively engage with each other so that the mission of safety and the mission of you graduating successfully from NYU, or you having a wonderful career at NYU, how can we do all that together? I know there's ways right, but we haven't really actively talked about it. I want you to know that we have an open door, that's what we have. We have an open ear and an open mind so bring i, but don't sit on something for three months and be mad znd then wait and then finally say something. If it's important to you, it's important to me.
Karen Ortman 41:33
Is there anything you would like to add before concluding our conversation today?
Fountain Walker 41:42
Y'all be safe. Take care of yourselves and your families. And stay COVID free. Peace.
Karen Ortman 41:49
I like it. Thank you. Thank you to my guest, Fountain Walker and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune in or Spotify.