Campus Safety currently has two female officers working for them out of 14 in total. This problem is not only specific to Knox College, but also a widespread problem throughout law-enforcement.
Knox follows the trend of law enforcement being one of the most male-dominated professions in America. The profession is more gender imbalanced than active-duty military. Mark Welker, Director of Campus Safety, stated that the lack of women on the force isn’t intentional.
“Knox College does not discriminate, but we do try and be fair in our hiring process. If there is a highly qualified male candidate and a female candidate with no experience we will default to the male candidate, regardless of us wanting to increase our female officers,” Welker said.
Welker stated that over the past few years they have had a total of five female officers and that three of these officers have left the position to further their careers in law enforcement.
“The problem is not one of gender discrimination [at Knox], the problem is getting more female candidates to apply,” Welker said.
Knox College currently has an advertisement out for a new campus safety officer in The Register-Mail. The disclaimer at the bottom of the advertisement states that Knox College does not discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, etc. and Welker maintains that they do not.
“We try to reach as many candidates as possible by posting the job listing on Indeed the local newspaper, and we also have a commercial that runs on the radio. And I would say that the listing is gender neutral,” Welker said.
There are many theories about why there are a lack of women in law enforcement type jobs. Some are tied to the fact that there are deeply embedded biases about women in the law enforcement profession, such as the idea that women are not capable of the required physical strength for the job or lacking authority.
“For some reason, law enforcement type jobs just attract a disproportionate amount of male applicants compared to women applicants. It is not the only field in which this statement is true,” said Welker. For example, there aren’t a lot of female mechanics or construction workers and vice versa in nursing, there are more women than men. That doesn’t mean there aren’t none and we need to encourage them to apply,” Welker said.
Despite Campus Safety employing two female officers, the question about situations in which it might be easier to talk to a female officer still stand. Sophomore Leslie Macias, a second-year resident assistant explained that recently some of her residents asked her what would happen if the emergency Campus Safety were to be pushed. Resident assistants work relatively closely with Campus Safety.
“We are required [report to] to Campus Safety if there is any underage drinking, if students are smoking in their residence halls and if there are any conflicts between residents,” Macias said.
Students have also noticed the lack of female Campus Safety officers. Macias stated that she has had a few of her female residents approach her asking if she could be the person they could contact in case they had been sexually assaulted or harassed.
“Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with any Title IX cases yet but my residents have made it clear that it would be more comforting if they could contact me instead of campus safety directly after,” Macias said.
When asked why she thought Campus Safety and the law enforcement profession was primarily comprised of male officers and lacked female representation Macias said, “I think many people have this internalized sexist belief that male officers are more authoritative and that if a female officer was responding to a difficult situation, she would be more likely to be disrespected as a result of said misogyny.”