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Campus security officers: Patrolling the campus during the pandemic is like a 'ghost town'

Spencer Hauata looks to the right wearing a black suit and red tie with a white headphone in his ear.

Kelly Martínez normally works nights as a security officer at BYU–Hawaii, so the pandemic had not affected the level of human interaction she has at work, she said. However, during a recent day shift, she was shocked by the silence.

“It was like a ghost town,” the senior cultural anthropology major from Florida said, adding the campus used to be home to an abundance of happy, loud people who usually keep the campus lively. “And then, all of a sudden, all that sound is just gone.”

BYUH Campus Safety & Security employees said they have patrolled a quieter campus and Polynesian Cultural Center since students left the school in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the Center, security officer Spencer Hauata, a junior from Tahiti majoring in business marketing, has noticed a similar quietness. “It’s very empty. I’ve seen the [Center] when it was busy, but now it feels lonely,” he said. Hauata said he is grateful to still be employed during the pandemic when so many have lost their jobs.

Although there are fewer students and people on campus and at the Center, campus security is still dealing with different issues, said Iona Teriipaia, a Campus Safety & Security manager. Because of all the construction going on, Campus Security has had to communicate with the contractors about safety. “[We] make sure things are safe. … They are usually really, really good to work with us to help us to make sure the safety part of it is taken care of,” Teriipaia said.

On top of the recent construction, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in Campus Security becoming the mask and social distancing enforcers. When the campus first shut down, the students were instructed to be in their hales by 6 p.m., but the curfew was at 9 p.m., Martínez said. TVA Housing was the most difficult to enforce because it was hard to tell married couples what to do, she said.

Currently, Martínez is working the night shift, which has led to interaction with the homeless population, she said. Their responsibility as security is to ask them to leave campus, but these interactions can become uncomfortable, she added.

“Those encounters are kind of awkward because you see them so many times that you get [to] a first name basis,” Martínez said. The security officers get to know these people’s backstories, and this adds to the awkwardness of “kicking” them out, Martinez said. The personal aspect can be the hardest part of the job, from experiences like this to enforcing Honor Code infractions, she explained.

Having to confront fellow coworkers while they are off duty or regular students who are not following the standards or rules can be uncomfortable, Martínez said. The job is hard, she said, but they are working to keep the campus safe.

Hauata said, “[It] is not our job that is most important but the purpose of our job."

Hauata said he has not looked for another job in the past two years for one reason. “A lot of people get really mad at security officers because they enforce policies, but if they look at the big picture, … a greater purpose is to keep the campus and the PCC safe.”