Observer program seeks volunteers

17 September 2002 | The campus observer program is looking for faculty and staff in the PPS and MSP classifications to serve as volunteers.

The program, administered by the Office of Student Life, got its start nearly 40 years ago, during the Free Speech Movement. Following a period of inactivity, it was revived during the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s. Program managers train and coordinate volunteers to serve as impartial observers at campus events that could potentially involve confrontations between protesters and police, or where violations of laws or campus regulations might occur. The presence of observers helps calm such situations; also, should a complaint or disciplinary, civil, or criminal action against a participant ensue, observers’ written records can be invaluable for clarifying what took place.

The program is one of very few like it on college campuses nationwide. Chancellor Berdahl notes the important role of observers in hearings held two years ago to examine charges against student protesters. “The hearing committee reviewed the written reports of observers, and some observers were called as witnesses,” he says. “Their input played a crucial part in the deliberations of the hearing committee.”

Volunteer observers attend a required two-hour training session on topics including neutrality, report writing, police practices, complaint procedures, safety issues, and site logistics. They typically serve two to three hours per semester, as their schedules permit; volunteers are free to disqualify themselves from observing events when they feel it would be impossible to maintain neutrality.

It is assumed that staff members have the permission of their supervisors to participate in the program, Berdahl adds.

For information, contact Hal Reynolds at or 642-6772.


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