The CSS “Witch Hunt”

Nicholas Landry

In response to the protests against Campus Safety and Security (CSS) last spring, a campus security consulting firm was on campus recently to conduct an external review process of CSS, as described in the article “Outside firm conducts review of CSS” published recently in the Record on Oct. 30. As a student who was opposed to the protests last spring, I believe the open forum presented a great opportunity to hear some of the concerns against CSS. I have had an on-campus job with CSS for three years, which may cause others to consider I am biased in my feelings toward them, but I would argue that I present a stronger perspective, as I have grown to know them on a very personal level. The members of CSS are genuinely good people, whose main concerns are the safety and well-being of every student at Williams. As someone who has developed very close relationships with CSS, I believe their sound intentions of protecting the students at the College is very apparent. Thus, I did not agree with what seemed to be an attack against CSS last spring.

The protests against CSS have proven to be no more than a performance and an attack rather than a substantial effort to create change. This was clearly evident in the poor turnout at the recent open forum for students held by Margolis Healy, where not one student active in the protests made an appearance. This was a disappointment to me and the other students in support of CSS, since we were looking forward to hearing more about their concerns and accusations. One student shared, in the news article, that the reason many protesters did not show up to the open forum was because they “aren’t totally aware of what’s going on.” I remember reading the extensive list of demands that were released last spring, specifically the one that stated, “We demand a thorough, external, and independent investigation into the practices and conduct of CSS, focusing on officer interactions with minoritized students.” The excuse of not knowing what is going on is not a valid one for the very students who called for the external investigation. The student went on to give another reason for the protesters’ absence, stating that they were “very tired.” The open forum was the perfect opportunity for students to voice their concerns, and the fact that it was not important enough to roll out of bed further reinforces the protests as a mere performance. 

Despite the absence of student protesters, the forum facilitated a great discussion on how to bridge the gap between CSS and students. A few students at the forum added that the presence of CSS officers as authority figures can cause students to feel uncomfortable, which could contribute to students feeling as if they are treated unfairly. Two specific examples used were those of noise and smoking complaints as students noted that they may feel that the presence of CSS for one of these complaints is unnecessary. If this is the case, then maybe the focus should not be on the investigation of CSS at all, but rather on strengthening the relationships between students. I was always taught that if I’m faced with a problem (a noise complaint, for example) I should get up, knock on the door, and simply ask the student to quiet down. If students are not capable of doing this on their own, the blame cannot be placed on CSS for showing up and doing their job. By focusing more on strengthening the relationships between students, so students feel comfortable confronting others, many of these instances can be avoided where the additional presence of CSS may make some individuals feel uncomfortable.

As someone who has been able to develop relationships with members of CSS, I do not agree with the complaints, accusations and one-sided attacks against CSS that occurred last semester. I believe students need to appreciate what CSS does for the students here at Williams. The CSS employees are a genuine group of people, and they deserve to be defended by those who understand their priorities. I encourage students who feel like they do not have a strong relationship with members of CSS to take the time to actually get to know them. In doing so, perhaps students will realize the top priorities of CSS are the safety and well-being of every student at Williams. I understand that some students may not agree with this article, but they don’t have to; I just hope that some students will realize the criticism that CSS has faced recently and their true intentions.

Nicholas Landry ’21 is an economics major from Falmouth, Mass.