When Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf retired as Chief of Police at the Galesburg Police Department in 2006, he intended to stick around Knox for a few years. Now, almost 10 years later, he has retired from his position at Knox.
“I realized gee, 10 years later, it’s time for me to finally make that decision. Out of respect for my own family — I want to give them some time too, but I thought I should go ahead and do it,” Schlaf said.
Since his announcement to retire on April 30, the college has been looking for a replacement director. Instead of hiring an interim director, a committee of two faculty, two staff and three students has been actively searching for a replacement and hopes to find a replacement as soon as possible. The committee started to review the first round of applications on May 1. In the meantime Campus Safety will function as it has, and officers will remain functioning in their normal capacities.
“The system’s not going to break. That’s why we have systems in place,” said Associate Professor and Chair of Dance Jennifer Smith. She and Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steve Hall are chairs of the search committee.
The function of the committee is to find a replacement that will represent the needs of the entire campus.
“My goal at the end of the day is that my personal preferences is not going to weigh more than anyone else on the committee,” Hall said.
Knox is not looking for a specific applicant, but the job ad asks for a director responsible for “articulating a vision of campus safety and security that reflects the best contemporary practices in higher education.” The advertisement requests prior supervisory experience in security, military police, campus safety or law enforcement, and prefers applicants with prior knowledge of Title IX laws and mandatory reporting. The college “actively encourages” women and members of underrepresented groups to submit applications. The job ad has been placed in a variety of locations, including Inside Higher Ed and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Junior and committee member Tawni Sasaki said she’s looking for a director who will shape the campus climate and rebuild trust with students.
“I feel like now a lot of it is saving face for the college or implementing our policy that’s already there, and I feel like we need someone who’s going to be involved in changing the policy in such a way that students would like to see fit, especially in regard to Title IX reform,” she said. “I think on campus there’s a stigma right now that they’re not doing correct Title IX investigations or racial profiling, and I think that’s a reflection of the United States at the moment.”
Sasaki cited the Good Samaritan Policy as one of the better developments within Campus Safety, but she still wants more transparency. However, as a student senator, she’s seen zero community attendance at Senate meetings, and asks for more involvement on the part of students.
“I do think this is an opportunity to make a difference on campus, and we need to take advantage of it,” Sasaki said.
The committee emphasized the importance of working in a residential environment within the context of Galesburg.
“You have to have a person that can work in a multicultural environment, that has impeccable integrity, that can communicate. You absolutely have to have that. In addition to the expertise that they have to have in a campus safety job, you have to have the personal qualities that’s going to make it work in the context of Knox,” said Vice President of Finance Tom Axtell. After the committee makes a first round of decisions, the candidates will be presented to Axtell, who will review the list with President Teresa Amott.
Though he has left Knox, Schlaf won’t be leaving Galesburg, and he doesn’t intend on leaving law enforcement. He’s been invited to work on some safety projects in Springfield for Illinois Law Enforcement.
“After 50 years in law enforcement, it would be nice to maintain an involvement on the training and education side. And who knows, I may go back and teach a little bit. I used to do that,” he said.
He also has plans to teach his grandkids and great grandchildren to fish and hunt mushrooms.
Schlaf hopes that the college will find a replacement who will be equally committed to the well-being of the students and take the job seriously.
“Not as a resume builder, not to use as one step to another, not to make a lot of money, not to do anything other than take care of our most precious cargo, and that’s our students. And that’s what I would hope for, and I feel comfortable that’s what they will seek,” Schlaf said.