A critical look at Security

Let’s just come right out and say it: Campus Safety and Security is out of control. There is a widely shared perception that Security has crafted a harsher policy this year, especially with regard to social gatherings, in ways that hurt social life at the College more than in years past. What makes this issue particularly difficult is that, unlike other campus issues, students are afraid to speak their mind about Security in formal settings for fear that Security will somehow enforce disciplinary action against them. Those concerns may or may not be unfounded, but it seems to me that it’s time for someone to step up and say in a public way what’s been confined to private conversations. And I’m standing up because I’m fed up. Security needs to listen to students, and crucially, that starts with students expressing their frustrations.

Let me be clear: I’m not writing to “settle a score” with Security or because I think Security has acted capriciously toward me personally. I’m not out to criticize individual officers; in most cases, I assume they are simply enforcing a misguided policy. This is about generating a positive culture on campus. Security’s policies affect every student’s well-being. If they are ill conceived, these policies can touch every student’s life in a way that few other policies can. I believe there are substantial reasons to think that Security’s policies are, in fact, ill-conceived. The perception I share is that Security has been cracking down harshly on parties that pose no real threat to student safety. That erodes Security’s credibility with students, pushes gatherings into more dangerous spaces and takes manpower away from more pressing problems should they arise. We need to start a conversation that convinces Security that this policy and perhaps others are a problem. Passive complaints don’t change policy. Students expressing frustration does.

Of course, some might say that Security is simply fulfilling the role of “bad cop” in a way that some campus body must. The friction between students and Security is simply an unavoidable part of that process. But is that really true? Wasn’t Security similarly obligated in the past? There are some who argue that Security has changed its policy for legitimate reasons. Perhaps the most prevalent that I’ve heard is that there are some within the administration who are pushing Security to crack down on parties as a way of cracking down on sexual assault. This is a legitimate policy option for combating perhaps our campus’ most pressing problem. But if those who make the argument truly believe in their case, they should take it to the students and try to get us to buy into it. Changing policy behind closed doors is simply a way of circumventing student opinion.

For those who have been hoping for specific proposals, I am afraid I must disappoint you. I’ve avoided leveling specific criticisms against Security for a reason. I’m genuinely curious what others have to say, and this is not a venue in which I can express a long and detailed list of proposals. But I am strongly convinced that the status quo is unacceptable. So you might be asking, what do you want? In short, I want you, the student reading this piece, to voice your dissatisfactions with Security as loudly and in as many forums as you can. E-mail President Falk, Dean Bolton, and most of all, the Director of Campus Safety and Security himself, Dave Boyer. Take it from me: He appreciates the chance to meet face-to-face with students and hear their concerns. Take him up on his offer! Head to Williams Students Online, that incubator of rational discussion, and use it as a megaphone. In all seriousness, the administration will respond to nothing less than sustained student protest. Let’s give it to them.

Yes, Security is out of control. But it’s time we stopped complaining and started agitating for real change.


Brian McGrail ’14 is a history and political economy double major from Arlington, Va. He lives in Morgan.

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