Keysi Montás named director of Safety and Security

by Savannah Eller | 10/1/20 2:00am

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Source: Eli Burakian '00

After three years as interim director, Keiselim “Keysi” Montás has been officially named director of the Department of Safety and Security, according to a Sept. 22 College announcement. Montás has worked for Safety and Security for over a decade, while also teaching tango, writing poetry and advising student clubs and trips.

“I think the students really are my driving force,” Montás said, explaining that his background as an immigrant and first-generation college student motivated him to make a positive impact on students in the Dartmouth community. 

Montás came to Dartmouth in 2007 after working as senior training manager campus security at New York University. For almost a decade, he served as associate director of Safety and Security at Dartmouth under previous director Harry Kinne. He then took over as interim director when Kinne retired in 2017.

After Kinne’s retirement, the College began a nationwide search for a replacement director, a position Montás said he was initially reluctant to apply for. He said he reconsidered later in the selection process and decided to apply, undergoing normal applicant background checks and meeting with search committee members and different groups on campus. 

Executive vice president for finance and administration Rick Mills said that Montás immediately stood out among applicants for his “rounded worldview” and dedication to community cohesiveness at Dartmouth.

An accomplished tango dancer, author and poet, Montás has contributed to the College as a dance instructor, club advisor and mentor to minority and first-generation students. For seven years, he also helped lead a Tucker Foundation spring break trip program to his native Dominican Republic. Montás also sits on Lebanon, New Hampshire’s Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force.

Mills said that Montás appealed to the search committee as a qualified public safety authority who had not chosen a career path as a police officer. He said the College trustees preferred to keep Safety and Security as a non-police entity and that Montás had the best understanding of the purpose of the department among the candidates. 

Mills said Montás would be the best candidate for “maintaining safety and security,” while also remaining “mindful” of how students interact with Safety and Security.

“A lot of the people we interviewed for the role had a kind of command and control policing mindset that was very professional but didn’t feel as though it acknowledged in the same way the fullness of our community,” Mills said. 

Safety and Security communications officer Michael Burns, who was hired in 2017 and had only experienced Montás as interim director, said it came as a surprise to him that Montás may not have continued in the role. 

“Since I've been here, [Montás] has always been the interim director,” he said, adding he was “actually surprised” that at one point Montás had not planned to apply for the position.

Burns said the appointment was well-received among Safety and Security officers, who have been happy with Montás’ leadership during his interim appointment. 

“He’s treated everyone very fair[ly],” he said. “He goes to bat for you when we need something.” 

Montás said his goals for the department going forward include increasing the College’s disaster preparedness training and hiring an associate director. Mills said a job description for the associate director position was in development and that a similar national job search would be conducted. 

Montás said that during the pandemic his department had “been here every single day” working on site during the campus shutdown and through the summer. While some of the department’s roles have been modified to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission, he said that Safety and Security is still delivering on its basic mission.

“Our main role is that what people come here to do they are able to do in a safe manner and in a climate that is ... free from emotional or physical threat,” he said.