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As detailed in today’s Oracle, USF is now accepting bids from private security firms. The University’s “Invitation to negotiate” – the document that sets the parameters for the bidding process – indicate that if a private security firm is hired, it would be responsible for the “external and internal inspection and patrol of University property,” “protection of University property,” reporting of “hazardous conditions and physical security problems,” it would also enforce “designated University regulations, policies and procedures,” provide “non-criminal public safety and security enforcement services to the USF community,” and assist University Police “when called upon.”

The University, moreover, is seeking a firm that will provide around-the-clock services. The guards would wear uniforms, be unarmed and be required to undergo background checks, as well as uphold the training standards expected of other professionals in the field.

Still, it remains disconcerting that the University is seeking a private security firm for these jobs, considering that the bid invitation blatantly charges non-police with investigating “unusual occurrences” and expect them to be capable of “responding to any call received.”

What also remains is the question of resources: If the University can find the money to pay a private security firm, then why can’t it find the money for UP salaries? As reported in previous editions of the Oracle, the ranks of UP are thinning because other nearby law enforcement agencies pay thousands more to officers with similar experience.

Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall claims the bidding will not serve as a disincentive against proper contract negotiations with UP, currently underway to address salary and budgetary issues.

Initially, the private security firm would be funded for only one year, Meningall said. The firm would not be funded by the pool of recurring funds, so the University would have to reassess the cost before contracting the firm for an additional year.

However, the length of any security firm’s tenure on campus is unimportant when assessing whether such a firm should be on campus. USF should not hire a private security firm because the money for such a firm – be it from recurring funds or others – could well be used by a strapped UP. Although USF has not yet specified the price it’s willing to pay a private security firm, it seems unlikely that 24-hour-a-day surveillance would be cheaper than a few more officers’ salaries or even raises, considering said firms seek profit and would likely charge overhead to generate it.

The University should consider the true cost of penny-pinching UP further – by hiring a private security firm – before rushing to do so.