Harding began using nontraditional, off-campus classroom options during the fall 2020 semester to adhere to social distancing guidelines, including locations such as College Church of Christ and the Keller Center (Family Dollar) on Race Avenue. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) said they are monitoring new areas due to the use of these new classroom spaces, as well as several harassment cases that occurred in the fall semester.
“We changed a few things, though not so much with College Church, because that is a well-traveled path anyways, especially with Midnight Oil being over there,” Craig Russell, director of (DPS), said.
Russell said they do not monitor College Church as closely because “they have a pretty extensive video surveillance security system,” as well as their own resources.
“With Family Dollar, it was a little bit different,” Russell said. “They are just as close, less than a block from campus, but it was not really set up to be classroom space. We very closely are keeping an eye on it, and that’s both during the day when we have students coming and going for class and in the evening when class is not meeting, as well.”
Due to the concern of safety on campus after the fall semester’s harassment cases, DPS installed four cameras dedicated to monitoring the Keller Center at all times.
A DPS officer is also posted outside the center during classroom changes throughout the day to ensure the students’ surroundings are being watched.
Faculty teaching at the Keller Center and College Church of Christ are also in communication with DPS to ensure the students have an optimal educational experience.
“Everybody with large classes was trying to make it work,” associate professor of Bible and ministry Dr. Kraig Martin said. “Everybody did the best they could, and I thought it really commendable how teachers, students, administrators — everybody — really handled the situation. You just have to be flexible with that kind of thing. It was an added obstacle, but I didn’t think it unsafe.”
DPS seems to be taking extra steps to ensure students’ safety at these temporary classroom locations, despite it being a learning experience for everyone.
“It’s not aesthetically beautiful, but as far as utilitarian function, it’s got everything you want,” associate professor of Bible and ministry Dr. Lee Edwards said. “We were learning as time went on, and we learned as we went. And the people who were called on to help did a great job of helping.”
Although these spaces are temporary, the University staff, professors and DPS employees are working to maintain a safe environment for students.