“There were strange noises coming from the bathroom.” Gabriella Allen ’00 said about a recent incident with her Dennett facilities. “My toilet wouldn’t shut up!” Security to the rescue! It only took a quick phone call to x4444 for Gabriela to get Williams Security Officers to come to her dorm, “bang on the toilet a few times” and fix the problem. Ahh, she sighs in relief.
Like most Williams students, Allen views Williams Security as a friendly force on campus, who are “not out to get us,” but are here to help students. As Jed Untereker ’98 said, “I don’t view Security as a parent figure in any sense. They’re more like a big brother, looking out for us.”
This reputation pleased most Security Officers, who agreed with Officer Shaun Lennon when he assured students, “We are definitely your friend – that’s our job.”
But Williams Security plays a bigger role on campus than most students think. Assistant Director of Security David Boyer said, “Everyday, Security silently tests the fire alarms in every building on campus. We enforce parking restrictions; handle medical transports and emergencies; respond to fire alarms; hold investigations and patrol the campus.”
In addition, the Security Department maintains one officer trained in crime prevention, another who is a certified bicycle instructor and a few others who are becoming certified in rape defense, which they hope to teach students second semester.
During special events, such as the time several years ago when Prime Minister Goh of Singapore came to Williams for convocation, the Security Department increases its duties.
“When Goh came to visit, we worked very intensely with the Secret Service, inspecting buildings, classifying rooms and running bomb sweeps,” Boyer said.
In fact, Security became so salient on campus that Boyer added, “Just before Goh arrived at Williamstown, a hawk began to circle the campus. Somehow a rumor got started that the Security Department had arranged for the hawk to keep an eye on the campus while the Prime Minister was here.”
In reality, Security does not need a hawk to investigate what is happening on campus. Boyer instead said Security often sees much more than it wants to know. Boyer told an anecdote from one of the first nights he was training Officer Robin Hart. The two were just about to enter a Brooks house party when the women’s swim team ran out of the building, topless. Within seconds, the women disappeared into the darkness of the nighttime campus. Hart’s first reaction was to run after them, but Boyer stopped him, asking, “What are we going to do with them if we catch them?”
Boyer said, laughing, “That incident really opened Officer Hart’s eyes. He didn’t realize how much the campus changes when it gets dark out.”
Hart learned pretty quickly. Since then, not only has he been forced to chase down students who were running from Security at night, but he also has had to chase streakers on bicycles. “They were cruising all over, making laps around the campus,” Hart said.
Because of their involvement on campus, each Security officer has at least one funny incident like those described by Boyer and Hart. Boyer said many officers have come across students “in compromising positions” during fire drills. He recalled one time in which an officer was searching a dorm during a fire drill,
checking to make sure that everyone had evacuated. When he entered one room, he thought he saw a student hiding in a closet. He thrust the closet door open wide, only to realize that it was not a student, it was an artificial limb. “We all thought that was pretty funny,” Boyer said.
Incidents such as these add humor to the occasionally tense jobs of officers. Most of the tension, officers agreed, comes from working at parties and enforcing parking laws. Boyer talked about the weekend party scene, saying, “When you get a facility at fire capacity with 100 people trying to get in, it’s not a fun situation.”
Boyer, however, does acknowledge the cooperative attitudes of the students. “Years ago, students would pretend to accidentally spill beer on the Security officers working at parties,” he said, “but now there’s a nice level of mutual respect, which certainty makes our job easier.”
Concerning the recent party policy change, Boyer said, “For the past five years we’ve been telling hosts that if they serve under age students they can get arrested by the local police, and every year this happens once or twice.” The situation is different this time, Boyer said, “because the police threatened to charge members of the Security Department.”
Hart said because of recent alcohol-related deaths at other colleges and universities, Security officers are increasing their observation of parties at Williams. Hart said he does not mind working parties, however. “I like to get to know people and try to make everyone feel welcome.” He said, “I hate to see anyone left alone. I try to treat them like my own kids. I want them to know I’m a friendly officer.”
Being a friend is not always easy for Security officers, who daily have to give students parking tickets. “The parking problem is a constant headache,” Boyer said, “simply because there is no solution to it.” He explained that there are only 800 employee parking spaces for 1000 employees, and 600 student parking
spaces for 2000 students. Lennon said, “Parking enforcement is something I don’t like, but it is necessary.”
However, Robin Paul ’99 remembered that one time Lennon left a note on her windshield, saying, “Don’t park here, I don’t want to have to give you a ticket.” It was signed with a smiley face. When reminded of this, Lennon chuckled and said, “Sometimes I do things like that.”
Overall, Security appears to go out of its way to help Williams students. Lennon said, “It is our goal to service the community 110 percent, to go home at night with a good sense of accomplishment.” And Lennon spoke for many officers when he said, “The students are great, I love them.”
Boyer agreed that fulfilling the department’s goals almost requires developing good relationships with students. “The core of the job,” he said, “is being able to balance authority and friendship.” One way he contributes to the friendship side of the scale is by occasionally inviting students to his home for dinner.
“We all, especially my daughter, have a good time when students come over,” he said. “Also it’s a nice chance for the students to get some home-cooked food.”
Most officers agreed that their job is both satisfying and fun. Boyer said he hopes that in the future, “The level of cooperation will continue between the students and Security. It’s never been as good as it is now, and I hope it only gets better.”
Lennon agreed with him. “It’s a good feeling, knowing that we’re your friend and that you can count on us,” he said. “If there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re the bad guys, know that that’s not true. We’re only here to help.”