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Safety Advice from New Director of Campus Security John Pack



Photograph courtesy of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).


For some incoming students, the transition to a new city or school comes with only minor changes. Maybe you need furniture for your living space, or a pair of good winter boots. But for incoming director of security John Pack, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is entirely new territory. Hailing from Minneapolis, Pack comes prepared with over 25 years of experience and advice on how to navigate the anxieties of studying at a school smack dab in the middle of downtown Chicago. Here’s a quick guide to understanding what having campus security at SAIC means for you.

Be Alert

“It’s not where you go, but it’s how you go,” Pack told F Newsmagazine from across the table in his office. When it comes to navigating a city, he added that any city can be dangerous. Some basic pointers are to “take your earbuds out; be paying attention to whatever’s going on around you as you walk.” He also recommended that students keep phones and wallets in their pockets instead of stowing them in a bag, which can be easily snatched.

Pack also suggested that students attempt to walk confidentially. People are on the lookout for someone who is distracted and disoriented. This is especially true for people who find themselves alone on a street or in a train.

“You are not nearly as safe as if you are there with a few friends who have their phones put away and are paying attention,” Pack said. Still, the exact same place could be safe for one group of people and not safe for another.

Walk Away

Pack encourages students to walk away from anything that makes them uncomfortable. 

“Panhandlers, street salespeople, and con artists all use false intimacy to try and gain trust and to judge whether they can intimidate you,” he said. This is advice he frequently gives out in emails sent to concerned parents. Pack said that this tactic usually starts when someone uses the back of their hand to touch a stranger’s forearm. Pack emphasized that this is absolutely the time to leave: This sort of touching can easily escalate to a hand on the shoulder or an arm around a back — making it even more difficult to leave.

It’s Okay To Be Rude

“Walking away and ignoring people: It’s more difficult than it sounds,” Pack said. Many of us have been taught to stay polite while talking to grown-ups and strangers. “Panhandlers know this and take advantage of it,” Pack explained. In these situations, he said, it is okay to be rude. It is better to offend the person than let them get to you.

Call For an Escort

“If for any reason a student feels unsafe, remind them that they can go to the security desk and ask for an escort between campus buildings,” Pack said. There is a security desk located at the entrance of every SAIC building. So if you are working into the night, or have a class that goes late, you have two options: take the van that runs from 9 am to 6 pm, or have someone walk with you. Don’t hesitate to request for an escort to the train station, a cab or between buildings — even if it’s 5 p.m.

Campus security is available to students even when they are off campus. Christmas night, New Year’s Eve, and even late on a Friday night: Students can call security and a guard will assist them. The number for campus security is 312-899-1230, and it is always available. 

“The number is answered all day, every day, 365 days of the year,” Pack said.

Lost and Found

Ever misplaced something on campus and went on a wild goose chase to find it? Stopped by the information desk and nada? Campus security has a lost and found, too. The lost and found is located on the seventh floor of Sharp — go straight and turn left at the elevators.

You can call the lost and found in advance to check, or go directly to the center to claim. This applies to the Art Institute as well. “Even though they aren’t technically part of the school, they will help you get in touch with the school,” Pack said.

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