Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience
By Margo Vanover Porter
Hays: Campus Enforcer
Sure she carries a gun, but when she's dealing with her staff, Regina M. Hays prefers not to wield a big stick.
"I didn't get here alone," says the director of police services, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). "I have a participatory management style. I'm not an authoritarian. I tell my staff, 'If you can articulate to me why you were acting in the best interests of this university, I'm going to be behind your decision 100 percent.'"
With SIUE for 23 years, she is one of its 39 police officers serving 14,000 students. "We want to have enough staff to be proactive, rather than reactive," she explains.
Also an instructor in criminal justice at SIUE, Hays warns her criminal justice students to be ready for the unexpected. "There will be stress," she cautions. "You'll rush to an emergency call, and then the next call will be about a cat in a tree."
Any sacrifices to get where you are?
Time away from my family. This is not a traditional Monday-through-Friday job. You work nights. You work weekends. You're not there when the Girl Scouts meet. You're not there for your son's soccer game. Law enforcement doesn't get off for holidays. A police job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so somebody has to work those hours.
Until I got up in rank, my days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, and I worked evenings. I saw my four kids off to school, and I didn't see them again until the next morning. I needed a husband who would support that, and Jim has done a phenomenal job. Law enforcement has a high divorce rate, but we've been married for 32 years.
In 2006, you were the first woman to be named president of the Southern Illinois Police Chief's Association (SIPCA). What's your secret for succeeding in a male-dominated field?
When I got hired, the chief of police saw potential and was very supportive in getting me the mentoring I needed. My boss also made sure I was involved in SIPCA so I would be able to network with command staff officers from departments all over the southern Illinois region. By being a proactive member of SIPCA, I was able to demonstrate my dedication, my initiative, and my professionalism.
What kind of crimes do you run into on campus?
A little bit of everything. We're our own small community. With the population base of 18- to 22-year-olds, we see more alcohol issues-maybe some theft issues. I call the thefts crimes of opportunity. We hear, "I walked out of my residence hall room to visit my friend down the hall and didn't lock the door"—and the victim is amazed someone walked off with his laptop.
Is 21 the right age to buy alcohol?
I think 21 is just fine. It's usually not the consumption of alcohol that's the problem. It's the overconsumption of alcohol-to oblivion.
Should students be allowed to carry weapons on campus?
I can adamantly say no to that one. I understand that people want to protect themselves, but if they want to carry a gun, will they go to the range and practice? How can police officers tell who the bad guys are? If we show up in an active shooter scenario and see someone with a gun, we don't have time to ask, "Are you the shooter or an innocent bystander?"
What's your worst day on the campus police force?
Telling someone their son or daughter has died is absolutely the worst.
And your best day?
I helped a young man who was having issues that evolved into a criminal arrest. At the end of that situation, he thanked me. It is truly rare that law enforcement officers are thanked for anything. I even got a phone call from his parents. Normally, parents call and yell and scream at me saying, "My son wouldn't do that." These parents said, "Thank you very much. We think your interaction helped our son."
When you get that kind of praise, it reminds you why you're here.
MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.