Safety first at Francis Marion University

Joshua Hardee, Assistant Editor

According to a recent study by, FMU is the safest university in the state. ranks colleges based on information from the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security database, which collects crime statistics that institutions are required to submit.

Donald Tarbell, FMU chief of police, said he was not surprised at the ranking because it reaffirmed the importance he knows FMU places on campus safety.

“I think we’re unique among universities in South Carolina where we have a very supportive administration of its police department in personnel, equipment, in training, and I think that’s evidenced in the resources and importance the administration focuses on,” Tarbell said. “ So to see the ranking, I think that’s just a testament to the university and that we have to have a safe campus, because that’s what students and their families expect.”

Tarbell said one reason for FMU’s safety comes from a developing relationship between campus police and the other community members and each member doing their part.

“Safety is unique in that it’s not just a service we provide; it’s a partnership between our students, the police department as well as the faculty and staff,” Tarbell said. “We all play a role in safety on campus. It’s something we do as campus community members. And staying safe by things like being aware of your surroundings and also being signed up for SwampFox Alerts, which is an important part of our emergency response framework. I think that’s where it’s great to have a police department that is so integrated into the community. Students know we are a resource for them just as much as the Writing Center is, just as much as the CASA is, because of the role we play in supporting the educational mission of the university so our students can be safe while they’re going to school.”

According to Cheryl Tuttle, director of housing and residence life, the number one ranking felt justified.

“I was thrilled because I have always felt safe at FMU,” Tuttle said. “It was exciting to see the news article because it provides a good opportunity for both prospective students and our current residents to see themselves included in the top-ranking safety status.”

Tuttle said achieving safety on campus is a community effort that they are always trying to improve on.

“I think we have a close-knit community where students get to know one another fairly quickly,” Tuttle said. “ From a residence life perspective, all of our living spaces are located in the same area of campus – residents travel back and forth through the same paths daily and know their neighbors and friends and where they reside. Also, we recently updated lighting and cameras around the buildings and in parking lots, in addition to trimming back bushes and opening several ground spaces for better distance sight. We’re always looking for ways to make the residential area safer and accommodating.”

Tuttle also said vigilance and awareness are key to ensuring that this level of safety remains.

“Always share with someone if your surroundings change,” Tuttle said. “If you see something, say something. We have a resident assistant assigned to every building in campus housing, and we have two professional housing staff members who live on campus. We would never be upset about a false alarm – it’s better to have information in the early stages of any situation.”