New year means new faces for Campus Safety, Emmons

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After a summer of searching, Occidental found replacements for the recently vacated positions of Campus Safety chief and Emmons Student Wellness Center director. Victor Clay replaced Sean Kennedy as chief of Campus Safety and Sara Semal took over from Robin Davidson as senior director of Emmons. Administrators also created two new positions, those of in-house general counsel and Clery Act administrator, for which they hired Leora Freedman and Veronika Barsegyan.

Campus Safety

Longtime security worker Victor Clay replaced Sean Kennedy, who worked for Occidental for one year, and interim Chief of Campus Safety Holly Nieto, who retired this past August. He will oversee the entirety of Campus Safety, from day-to-day procedures to working through incident reports.

Prior to joining the Occidental community, Clay worked as a deputy, sheriff and lieutenant within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department before branching out into corporate and private security. After these combined 30 years of experience, Clay said he missed being a team player.

“For me, being part of a team with a specific goal or mission is more fulfilling both personally and professionally,” Clay said via email.

After retiring from security work, Clay combed the Los Angeles area for campus safety jobs until he found the position at Occidental. He was hired after eight rounds of interviews.

In leading Campus Safety, Clay said he will subscribe to the motto, “compassion, excellence and integrity.” He plans to establish a chief’s advisory committee with members from student groups, and would like to apply campus safety models from similar institutions to create a better Campus Safety department.

“I am extremely competitive, [I want to make] Occidental Campus Safety No. 1 in the campus safety game. I want to increase our level of service on and around campus,” Clay said.

Associate Dean of Students Tim Chang, who helped hire Clay, hopes that Clay’s enthusiasm will be infectious.

Veronika Barsegyan, meanwhile, inaugurates a new role for Occidental as Clery Act Administrator. Barsegyan noted that with all the nuances of Clery Act law, it is essential for college campuses to have their own compliance officer. As the Clery Act administrator, Barsegyan will overlook all incident reports, update the daily crime log, send out incident reports to different departments and alert students to any timely warnings via the Oxy Alert system.

Trained in Clery Act laws and growing up in nearby Glendale, Barsegyan thought Occidental seemed like a perfect fit.

“I want students to know that there are a variety of outlets they can use to report incidents, or they can report anonymously, and that I will work to ensure they are filed correctly in compliance with Clery Act law. I want to see better reports, more precise reports, because we can always be better,” Barsegyan said.

Barsegyan and Clay will both work to ensure that Campus Safety is trained, informed and supported in every way to serve campus best, Barsegyan said. Additionally, both Barsegyan and Clay would like to increase communication between administrators and students.

General Counsel

Though Occidental has continuously had access to general counsel for its legal matters, the hiring of Leora Freedman as an in-house general counselor is new for the college. Her responsibilities as general counsel will be to cover any and all legal situations or law suits that Occidental faces. Freedman has pracitced both private and public legal work and most recently worked for the California State University system.

“I love working in higher education, and I believe in the mission of public education,” Freedman said. “However, I longed to be able to work on a campus and be more involved in the day-to-day operations. At Occidental, I felt there would be challenges that I would be ready to take on.”

Freedman’s goals as general counsel are to help the college run effectively and fairly through forming policy and procedure for complaint processes. In the coming year, Freedman hopes to catch up on current legal matters the school is facing, work through Title IX policy so all college-related civil rights matters are properly addressed and respond to any concerns in the community.

“We aren’t always going to agree, but I want the community to know that at least your voice is being heard and your complaint is being taken seriously,” Freedman said.

Emmons Student Wellness Center

After Robin Davidson’s departure from the position of director of Emmons, Occidental dispatched a search committee to find a new director. After visits from finalists and input from students and Emmons staff, the administration hired New York native Sara Semal, who has worked extensively in the medical, mental and public health sectors.

Semal is a trained psychotherapist and clinical supervisor and director. She found her niche working as the intermediary for patients who need both medical and mental health support. Since her arrival on campus, Semal has been impressed by the Emmons staff.

“What I love about Emmons is that the staff are so committed to the best outcome for the student,” Semal said. “I also love Project S.A.F.E. and its contributions to the campus. The only challenge [I have faced so far] is finding enough time to hear about and participate in all the wonderful things that are happening on campus.”

Looking forward, Semal would like to see Emmons become more integrated into students’ lives.

“In the coming year, I’d like to get Emmons to become a part of the Occidental community in different ways,” Semal said. “We tend to see students only when they are sick or in need, and I want to make sure we are experiencing them when they are full of joy, life and learning as well.”