Graphic by Jewelya Williams
“I believe with Dr. Hopper’s outreach to myself and my services and experience, which is worldwide and very vast, I believe that the programs that (Harding) has developed rank among the very top tier of universities,” Tully said.

Bruce Tully is watching out for Harding

With seven international campuses and nearly 50 percent of students studying abroad at some point in their Harding career, international safety and security are vital to the success of these programs.

Dean of International Programs Jeffrey Hopper said he focuses about half of his time working to maintain the safety and security of international programs. 

“I would say we work toward achieving with all students the very thing that applies no matter where you are, no matter when it is, and that’s to be aware of your surroundings,” Hopper said. “It’s one of the most important things you can do whether you’re in the military serving in a war zone or walking across campus in broad daylight or walking across campus in the dark. You need to be aware of who’s around you and what the environment is like.”

Harding also works with Bruce Tully as a direct consultant to keep up to date with the safety of every international program in their exact location on a daily basis.

“Bruce Tully has been a state trooper, he’s been a Marine, he’s been a Secret Service agent protecting the president, he’s been in the department of diplomatic security protecting secretaries of state, he was the agent in charge of security for Washington, D.C., for 12 years and now he’s watching out for Harding,” Hopper said. 

After working with countless professionals and being a part of the safety and security industry for more than 40 years, Tully said Harding’s international programs are some of the safest run by any school in
the U.S. 

Tully said that a surprising amount of colleges and universities have no sort of security or safety program for the students and “let them get on an airplane and go study somewhere.” Harding, however, is very different.

“I believe with Dr. Hopper’s outreach to myself and my services and experience, which is worldwide and very vast, I believe that the programs that (Harding) has developed rank among the very top tier of universities,” Tully said. 

Tully’s work for Harding has included professional U.S. embassy-style evaluations of the facilities where Harding students live while in Florence and Greece, and this fall he will be at the England campus to complete the same type of evaluation.  

These evaluations make sure that the facilities are up to standards for safety, security and environmental situations. Tully looked at all possible aspects of safety including threats, crime, burglar proofing, fire safety and even outdoor lighting. 

In 2012,at the Villa where students stay in Florence, for example, Tully completed this inspection and found that the third floor bedrooms all had iron bars which did not open over the windows. 

“(Tully) demanded that we … fix those so that they will open outward and you can unlock them from the inside and open outward for escape,” Hopper said. “That demand that he placed on me was especially significant because we had a fire at the Villa two years ago. The Villa was not occupied at the time, but if it had been, we well could have lost some students because we had not yet fixed the windows.”

Another safety measure that Harding implemented last year was to hire a security force of armed guards to patrol the 3,000-acre mission where students who study abroad in Zambia live.  This addition has helped stop petty theft, which Hopper said is a “very common crime committed against students while they’re overseas.”

Hopper and Tully both said that when students are aware of their surroundings it dramatically reduces safety problems. 

“People are vulnerable when they think ‘it won’t happen to me;’ and all of that I wrap up in situational awareness,” Tully said. “It is always consciously knowing where you are, what’s going on around you, and if something happens, what you can do to protect yourself. Whether that be in London or Greece or Searcy, Ark., instead of just walking around with your head in your iPhone you should be looking around to see what’s going on around (you).”

While students are overseas,  Hopper said that communication among the university’s security consultants, the U.S. Department of  State, Harding’s department of public safety and parents is important. 

“When our students are in an area that might be perceived to be of elevated risk, but we believe it’s not elevated risk, such as when HUG visits Israel, the director emails the families every day and in addition he files phone reports with me every day letting me know that everything is well,” Hopper said. 

Hopper said he treats the students studying abroad as if they were his children. Tully called his relationship with Harding personal rather than business, and said that students and staff  “are like family.” 

In one incident, Hopper had a parent call to ask if he would send his own daughter to a particular location, and he replied with “my daughter is there right now, so yes.”

“I would not send any student someplace I wouldn’t have sent my children when they were the same age,” Hopper said.

Despite all these security and safety measures, Hopper did point out that Harding cannot guarantee anyone’s safety.

Senior Anna Pentecost attended HUF during summer 2012 and said she did not have to worry about her safety on the trip.

“I felt very prepared for my time abroad,” Pentecost said. “The villa in Florence was extremely safe and I never once questioned my security. The staff did a great job preparing us for things that could go wrong not only in Italy, but all over Europe. This helped greatly in (independent) travel because I knew what to do and not to do to avoid situations I did not want to be in.”

To Hopper’s knowledge, there has never been a student physically harmed by another person at any overseas campus.

“I don’t want to be portrayed as saying ‘we keep them safe,’” Hopper said. “We can’t. But we ‘take all prudent measures to keep them safe.’  We can’t do all measures or we’d have to lock them in a bomb shelter. Nobody can be sure of being safe. Ever. But we do everything that we know to do to create a safe learning and travel experience. And that’s the reason we have Bruce Tully: I don’t want anybody but the best watching out for Harding students. He watches out for bad guys on our behalf.”

The department of public safety on campus plays a role in international security.

“I have personally met with each individual international program director about site-specific security for their individual programs,” Director of Public Safety Craig Russell said. “My assistant director, Kevin Davis, and I traveled to our HUF and HUG campuses in the fall of 2011 and conducted on-site security surveys and met with local police and fire officials.”

According to Russell, Hopper, the international program administrator Janis Ragsdale and himself all receive reports twice a day from the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Advisory Council, which provides information about potential security threats around the world. They compare these reports to all the locations where students are traveling to keep up with security every day. 

Senior Lindsey Sloan attended Harding University in Australia in fall 2011. She said there were many differences in Asian security compared to the U.S. Despite these differences,  she said she still felt safe.

“When going through an airport in Asia, it blew me away that I was able to wear my shoes, watch, rings and belt through a metal detector, and that it wasn’t necessary to remove my computer from my bag,” Sloan said. “Things like this definitely made me a little apprehensive to fly on an Asian airline. I didn’t feel that we were taken anywhere that would have put our safety in jeopardy. I felt very prepared to know what steps to take in order to not put myself in a dangerous situation.”