Murray State University has been designated as a “Safe Community” by the National Safety Council, making it the only public university in the world to receive the title.
Donna Stein-Harris, senior director of Safe Communities America with the National Safety Council, spoke about the honor at Friday’s Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce Business@Breakfast. She said Safe Communities America is an international program that was developed more than 20 years ago by the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Community Safety Promotion in Stockholm, Sweden. It started at the local level before being picked up by a local university and catching on across Sweden before the WHO took notice, she said.
Stein-Harris said the program is a proven approach to community injury reduction structured around a broad coalition of community partners, including businesses, civic organizations, local government, non-profits, and local residents.
“The United States and the National Safety Council has been involved with this since 2007, and since that time, we’ve added 22 — soon to be 23 — communities that have been designated. It’s not for the faint of heart; it takes a lot of work and requires a significant effort. But it’s a pretty remarkable achievement. It’s quite a prestigious honor.
“Murray State is the 22nd community in the United States, the 299th worldwide and the third university in the United States and in the world to become designated. It is the first public university to become designated, so it’s a real differentiator. It really says, ‘Look at us. Look at what we’ve done,’ and something they should be proud of.”
The other two U.S. universities to have received the honor are the University of Southern California and Emory University, she said.
Stein-Harris said Dr. David Fender, professor in the Department of Occupational Safety and Health, was largely responsible for applying and receiving the designation for the university.
“In October of 2011 the MSU Safe Community Task force formed,” Fender said. “An application was submitted early this year, and in October of this year, an on-site review team came to evaluate the campus. This designation comes from the daily if not hourly work from all of the people who have anything to do with safety and health on campus, and that number may surprise you.”
A redesignation process occurs every five years, and Stein-Harris said the expectation is that the designated institutions will continue to expand what they have started.
“What this means is not that the university or the community is 100 percent safe,” Stein-Harris said. “Nobody could make that claim. But what it means is that they have processes in place to keep it safe, in that they can deal with anything that comes up. So a lot of it is about prevention programs. A lot of it is processes if something were to happen, then they would know exactly what needs to be done. That only improves over time. Anything with safety improves over time, so that is the expectation.”
“This designation would not have happened without everyone here and all those involved,” said MSU President Dr. Randy Dunn. “This is something we’ve really been working on, not necessarily announced to the external world but to the campus. We’re really moving toward notoriety in a wide range of activities that have brought us to a level of success.
“One thing I like about this accreditation is it goes along with other things we’re already doing on campus. There are things already in place that provide some synergy. The first charge of a university is the safety of the community and the students.”
“It’s been a great year for Murray overall,” said Lance Allison, the Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO. “We were named the friendliest city, Chamber of the Year and we’ve had ivis come to town. Let’s hope and pray 2013 will be great as well. We’re proud to have this designation, and MSU is a very good partner to have and we are grateful for that.”