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K-State Today

May 3, 2016

From the VP for research: Promoting safety in RSCAD

Submitted by Peter Dorhout

Dear K-State Community,

Whether I'm meeting with faculty, staff, students, parents, or alumni, I often hear people use the word "family" when describing their K-State experiences. As a family, we recognize the responsibilities of looking out for each other and making our research environment a safe one. I have attended many student and alumni recognition events in the past month, and I've heard attendees express admiration for K-State's professional, collaborative, and high-quality working and learning environment. We have a wonderful culture at this institution, and our leadership embraces that.

A recent Science article and new report from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities are sober reminders of how important a culture of safety is whenever and wherever we engage in research, scholarly, and creative activity and discovery, or RSCAD. Safety fits hand-in-glove with all our K-State value statements and is something we should embrace and promote.

To support a culture of RSCAD safety in research on campus, interim President Richard Myers, Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason, Vice President for Administration and Finance Cindy Bontrager, and I are creating a campus leadership team that will review and develop recommendations with the campus community. We believe that it will be important to have campus dialogues with all of our stakeholders to develop a shared vision and understanding of that culture of best, safe practices in our classrooms, laboratories, studios, and agricultural and livestock facilities. The goal is not to overregulate our environment, but to understand how we may embrace the values of academic freedom and professional responsibility to ensure a thriving campus environment.

Creating and supporting a culture of safety reflects on both our RSCAD and teaching outputs: many publishers and journals now require a statement in manuscripts that alerts readers to potential hazards of the work; writing and understanding safe operating procedures are standard in industrial and corporate settings who are hiring our students; and many companies and organizations have adopted a "zero-tolerance" attitude toward unsafe activities or unsanctioned procedures. In addition, our industry partners in research expect that the working environments we have reflect positively on them. Our students, whether graduate or undergraduate, need to leave K-State with shared safety values if they expect to succeed in the workforce.

Creating and supporting a culture of safety will not require that we "reinvent the wheel." Exemplars of safety are all across campus; we have much to be proud of, and we will invite you to help us continue to improve. Look for opportunities for input and feedback throughout the summer and next fall. K-State serves as a leader in so many areas of RSCAD — we are already a Top 50 public research university in many disciplines. The expectations of being a leader in the culture of safety for our students, faculty, and staff come with that status.

Stay safe, my friends.

Peter Dorhout, vice president for research

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