Administration to pay for security costs at events

In a major policy change, Security announced that students and student organizations will no longer be responsible for security charges at parties and events.

The change comes as a result of several years of discussion among senior staff, the provost’s office and security. This year, the provost’s office established a fund, based on estimates provided by Jean Thorndike, director of campus safety, which should cover all expenses for any event where security deems it necessary to assign officers.

“Student organizations can eliminate the cost of security when they are planning events,” Thorndike said.

In previous years, students have paid enormous costs to have Security officers staff parties. While security attempted to work within the students’ budget, the health and well-being of the students at the party ultimately takes precedence over budgetary concerns. Last year, Social Chairs (the organization has since been included in ACE), which planned all campus parties, spent approximately $9,000 of its $23,000 budget on security, according to its president, Rob Sica ’03.

Dave Boyer, assistant director of security, said security takes five factors into consideration when determining the number of officers necessary to staff an event: the size of the event; the amount of alcohol at the event; the location of the event; what day the event is on and the type of entertainment at the event. For instance, Boyer said, “Friday night parties go extremely well. We know a Friday party, if it’s a close call, we might not need to put officers at the party.”

Boyer said he also faces the problem of finding officers to work parties during the weekend. Security has 11 full-time officers and an additional six or seven part-time officers who work on weekends. “There are so many things that officers do that require overtime,” Boyer said. “By the end of the week we have to deal with officer burnout.” Hiring more officers is a budgetary issue, he said.

Consequently, the strain on officers created a high price for students to pay if Security was required at an event. Officers receive a weekend overtime rate of approximately $34-an-hour, although Boyer said the actual charge students have received in the past is marginally less than that.

Officers also begin work at 9 p.m., regardless of the starting time of the party and are paid for half an hour after the party ends. Thus, a party staffed by four officers that was planned for 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. would incur a $748 charge, because security would actually bill for 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Ultimately, Thorndike said, “if student safety is dependent on having three officers [at a party] and the student can only afford two, student safety shouldn’t be a budgetary proposal.”

Drew Newman ’04, general counsel of ACE, and Charles Danhof ’03, chair of ACE’s House and Social Events arm, said the release of ACE funds earmarked for security will greatly improve campus social life. “Every dollar that we used to spend paying for security is one more dollar that we can now spend better serving the student body, by producing more exciting, new and diverse social and entertainment events,” Newman said.

“Jean Thorndike deserves a ton of credit for this great change,” he continued. “For as long as I have been at Williams, Jean has been working extremely hard to eliminate security charges and improve student life.”

Richard Myers, associate provost and director of budgets, said there were a number of options he and Thorndike considered before deciding on increasing Security’s budget. “Once it was decided that we should relieve most campus groups/activities from these types of special security charges, we had to decide whether to increase a large number of individual budgets to cover charges or to increase security’s budget and direct them not to charge out for these services. Obviously we chose the latter,” he said.

Myers also said while Security’s budget has increased, that would not allow increased activity on the department’s part. Instead, it will simply relieve other organizations of paying for security, thereby helping to improve campus social life.

Dean Roseman called the decision a step in improving student life. “This decision is consistent with the College’s goal of improving student life outside of the classroom,” Roseman said. “It is a clear financial illustration of that goal.”