After the Webinar: Town and Gown – Partnering with Academic Organizations to Leverage Additional Resources. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Elizabeth Dunn, Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner, and Dr. John Schultz answered a number of your questions after their presentation,  Town and Gown: Partnering with Academic Organizations to Leverage Additional Resources. Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: So many law enforcement agencies are having staffing issues and that may be difficult to engage with local universities. Could you share your thoughts on how agencies and universities might overcome this limitation? 

John T. Schultz: I’ll take a stab at it first. Before I retired, we had an auxiliary component of our agency, not every agency has that. But they augmented a lot of things for us. And they helped us greatly in trying to facilitate those things where the tasks need to be done, but they’re not the highest on the order of pecking order to get things done. So, they helped with that. I would probably look toward your PIO or public information officer. He or she can probably bridge the gap. A little bit easier to say. A little bit freer than calls and calls are probably the first person that I would go to.

Elizabeth A. Dunn: Yeah, I think also working with, like, just having that conversation initially with the faculty, and let them know that there is that limitation and that time constraint, but that there are real problems. If they’re not working directly with you throughout the entire semester, just being able to kind of touch base multiple times a year, and how they can maybe integrate certain things within class assignments or design it so that there are a little bit more hands-off. That can be an opportunity. Or if you know exactly when you’re going to start planning the next exercise, or that training program. Invite the faculty member to that meeting, so you don’t have to send additional e-mails to request support. So, I know for me, if there is something like that, like a planning meeting, our local government will always invite me, so that they don’t have to be asking me what to do. It takes the burden off of them. So that’s a great way to maybe just engage faculty in some of your meetings and some of your classes. I know we have —- meetings for our Urban Area Security Initiative. I attend those on the regular. I try to attend locally. If the faculty members know, especially if this is their sub-sector of their area, and they’re invited to these opportunities, and they can attend. And they can plug themselves in and see where some of these challenges are to help limit the amount of time that is put on your plate, as well. That’s just from my experience.


Audience Question: We’ve had a few issues with liability and the lawyers for the agency and the university have gone back and forth, which has delayed signing agreements. Do you encounter this issue? And do you have any suggestions?

John T. Schultz: Moving from law enforcement to academia, I’ve kind of been surprised that has now come up and at least in my institution. Because from law enforcement, it’s always been the thing about where you can partner with and what’s involved. And if there’s not an MOU and what ——-. But I have found that the in the academic side, now, that there’s a little bit more freedom, and so, there’s not so much emphasis placed on that.

Elizabeth A. Dunn: So, I’m just going to say with our students, if it’s a service learning project like this, we don’t typically go through those more extensive formal channels where you might be experiencing that through research. Like who owns the data, and who has access to it. So, I know for us, it’s about just kind of going through those fine lines of, that could be a little bit challenging for our students if they go out in the field. We’d let them know that getting to the site location is on them to reduce liability. And we do have them sign documents at state that they are part of this class, but that, it releases them from liability. Now, as for our students that are deploying and types of disasters. We usually fall and have them fall under what’s called the CERT program, or community emergency response team program, which then falls under, like, fire departments. And we have those students that are active, background checked, which we actually partner with our local law enforcement to help us get those background checks and reduce costs for our volunteers and our students are going to be working on the front lines and supporting our first responders. So, I think with service learning, there’s more flexibility. Research, sometimes the questions come up, especially in this area just because of with academic institutions, owning the rights to maybe information and then our law enforcement, having regulations and who can access certain data platforms and what information can go out. So, I think being very clear and what your expectations are, having those conversations, but also seeing where that the liability kind of lies is going to be dependent on the institution. And then what the level of involvement is for sure.

Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner: Yeah. I would just add that’s a really good reason to have a good MOU and if you think there’s a liability, I would have your attorneys and the university attorneys all look at it. And I’ve done that in the past. And for ones that I thought could come up and make sure that everybody was on the same page. And the other thing I wanted to say really, really quickly was that if you’re ever doing a focus group, or surveys, or anything like that, universities have the IRB, which is the Institutional Review Board. I think I got that acronym, right? And what that means is, that you have, on the university side, if you’re going to do a survey or focus group, or engage with human subjects in any way, you have to go through a process on how are you going to get consent from people participating? What are the questions you are going to ask? And what this process does is it has a panel on the other side where they review it to make sure that people aren’t injured or hurt as human subjects. And so, it’s called the IRB. Every university has this process, I think. I don’t know of any universities that don’t. I would just, something to have in your toolkit, is to make sure you can ask that question, okay, we’re going to do focus groups. Have you been through IRB? And what that is is this process on the end to make sure that everything’s in compliance and you’re not hurting people or infringing on people when you’re going through or having there’s a whole bunch of things to look for, but identifiable information or compromise people who are participating in different ways.


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