Saving Officer Shanley: Students organize protest against change in position for well-known DPS employee
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Waverly Avenue was misspelled. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Even freezing rain didn’t dampen the support of Syracuse University students for Department of Public Safety officer Joe Shanley on Monday.
About 45 students and community members gathered on Waverly Avenue between the Schine Student Center and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications between 2 and 2:30 p.m. to advocate for transparency within DPS and show their support for Shanley, who is known by many as “Officer Friendly.”
“He’s done so much for us,” said Jordan Foster, a senior communication and rhetorical studies major who participated in the rally. “This is the least we can do for him.”
As a result of restructuring within the department, DPS changed Shanley’s position from corporal in the Law Enforcement and Community Policing Division to public safety officer last week. Social media brought attention to Shanley’s change in position this past weekend, rallying support among SU students and alumni.
Reassignment to this position resulted in a reduced salary for several individuals, according to a Monday SU News release. However, a re-evaluation of the issue has since eliminated “significant downward salary shifts,” according to the release.
Thomas Wolfe, senior vice president and dean of student affairs, said it would be inappropriate to say the rally and student outcry through social media led to the statement, which was prepared before the rally.
“Sometimes concerns just get raised in multiple ways at the same time, and I think one just reinforces the other,” said Wolfe, who also attended the rally.
Students received little information about the restructuring of DPS or the specific responsibilities of DPS employees like Shanley, said Paul Ang, an organizer of the rally and a graduate student in the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“These major decisions that affect students directly, especially their safety and security, were really made without any student involvement,” Ang said.
In addition to recognizing Shanley for “going the extra mile,” Anthony McGriff, another organizer of the event and sophomore political science major, said the intention of the rally was to call attention to the lack of information.
“We’re advocating for transparency in issues that directly affect the day-to-day lives of the students,” McGriff said. “We want to have a say. We want to have our voices heard.”
Both Ang and McGriff are members of A Men’s Issue, a campus group dedicated to redefining and evaluating masculinity, and challenging the idea that domestic violence is only a women’s issue. Group members were responsible for the organization of the rally and could be seen passing out fliers for their organization in blue T-shirts over winter coats.
Shanley has been an active participant in A Men’s Issue, although changes in his schedule have prevented him from attending recent meetings, Ang said.
Although Shanley was not the only DPS officer repositioned as a result of the restructuring, his reputation for friendliness and approachability drew a strong student response, Ang said.
When Harly Rodriguez, a senior neuroscience and psychology major, received a Facebook invitation to the event “Rally for Joe Shanley” on Saturday morning, he took action.
While Rodriguez struggled with the “college blues” and culture shock as a freshman from the Bronx, Shanley, who is also from the Bronx, was able to relate to him and help him through a difficult time, Rodriguez said.
Almost immediately upon learning of Shanley’s change in position, Rodriguez sent an email to Chancellor Nancy Cantor and worked with the Latino student group La L.U.C.H.A., for which he is the community service chair, to circulate the Twitter hashtag #SaveJoeSU.
Brandon Medina, vice president of La L.U.C.H.A and a junior information management and technology major, said Shanley has a special ability to relate to minority students and students from the inner city.
“Syracuse is so diverse, with people from all over the United States and all over the world,” he said. “He knows whatever it is we went through growing up and in high school, and how we were able to rise above that and actually attend Syracuse University.”
Other students, like Danielle McCoy, a junior political science and African-American studies major, braved the rainy weather because of positive personal experiences with Shanley.
McCoy remembered a night during which Shanley found her a first-aid kit after she fell and cut her knee. She added that he always made sure she and her friends got home safely.
“He’s the only DPS officer I know by name,” she said.
While other DPS officers may come across as intimidating or mean, Shanley builds a personal connection with students, said Stephen Gasparini, a freshman systems and information studies major who attended the rally.
“He talks to you more as if he’s looking out for you, more than trying to get you in trouble,” Gasparini said.
Gasparini said he thought the icy weather prevented many people from attending the rally, noting several of his own friends would have come if not for the rain.
McGriff, one of the organizers, also said more people might have attended if the weather had been better or if they had chosen a different time of day, although he thought they were successful in bringing attention to the issue.
Jes Shanley, Shanley’s daughter and a senior international relations major, said she was happy with the show of support for her father at the rally and through social media.
The social media response was greater than actual participation. More than 800 students said they would attend the rally via Facebook.
Mary Ann Laubaucher, a participant at the rally whose sons have attended SU for the past six years, said she spread news of the rally through the SU parents’ Facebook page.
Laubaucher said she came because she had heard good things about Shanley through her sons, and did not think his position should have been changed.
“Someone who successfully interacts in a positive way with university students needs to be given a greater venue to do that,” she said. “I grew up in the 60s. When you see an injustice, you stand up.”
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