University outsources unarmed security coverage

Some community members protested the changing of the guards.

By Michael Lipkin

The University hired private security firm AlliedBarton to supply its security guards for the next three years, in a deal effective last month. Forty-two security guards, previously employed directly by the University, were affected by the change.

Unlike UCPD officers, who are sworn law enforcement officers with powers of arrest and the right to carry a weapon, security guards are unarmed. The University’s guards provide building security and patrol Hyde Park on foot and bicycle.

“The change to private security officers is one part of a comprehensive plan to use the University’s safety resources in the most focused, effective, and efficient way possible,” University spokesman Steve Kloehn said. Kloehn added that the plan was devised and implemented by Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Marlon Lynch, who was appointed last year.

Lynch was not available for comment, and Kloehn did not respond to questions about what savings the switch to AlliedBarton could create.

Kloehn said all 42 guards were offered jobs with AlliedBarton, and “many” remain security guards. New guards have since been hired to round out the security force.

“There was no reduction in service or coverage as part of the transition,” Kloehn said.

Not all security guards at the U of C are AlliedBarton employees. At least three guards, all from the Lab Schools, remain with the University, after students, parents, and Lab School faculty asked the administration to reconsider.

“It was clear to security officials, but well-known to us, that they were a lot more than security officers to keep our building safe,” said G. Christopher Jones, Lab Schools business affairs director. “The students formed very close relationships with .”

Jones said the three guards were well-known to students of the K–12 school.

“This isn’t just about security,” he said. “It’s about valuing the people who contribute to our community.”

While neither Kloehn nor Jones commented on the salary changes offered the guards, blog Hyde Park Progress reported that the guards were offered minimum wage jobs with AlliedBarton, a cut too steep for many to accept.

As the guards retire, they will be replaced by AlliedBarton employees, Jones said.

AlliedBarton, which provides guards to over 125 colleges across the country, has been criticized by several pro-union groups for offering low wages. In an August 27 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia museum guards employed by AlliedBarton demonstrated last fall for paid sick days. The guards previously had none. Guards hired by the University of Pennsylvania also demonstrated recently, and had their pay raised to $15-an-hour, from $9.70.

Alan Stein, an AlliedBarton spokesman, denied those claims.

“AlliedBarton provides competitive compensation and meaningful benefits to employees,” he said.