If professors, deans and staff command our deference during the daytime, security, in many ways, takes over after hours and on weekends.
The way we interact with college professors and administrators seems pretty standardized. But our relationships with security are a bit trickier. While security ensures the fundamental safety of our campus, they also have a tendency of getting in the way of our fun.
Students at Santa Monica College, a community college in southern California, are confronting these questions in a new way after a violent run-in between students and campus police outside a Board of Trustees meeting. The Board was considering implementing a two-tiered tuition payment system in which some classes would cost more than others based on popularity.
Although SMC had been getting a lot of publicity for this controversial policy, we want to focus on this issue of authority and security-student relationships. On Wednesday the president of SMC issued a statement defending the campus police that pepper-sprayed students outside the board meeting.
That’s messed up.
Of course we’re not concerned security would ever crack skulls here like SMC security did in the face of student protest, but the recent violence does raise questions about our relationship with authority here on campus and our sense of safety.
Of course we can always point to moments where it seems like security is ruining the fun—breaking up parties for noise complaints, or confiscating kegs. However, as much as we like to disparage security at Carleton, talking with friends at other colleges reminds us that these men-on-bikes play an indispensible role in building the trusting community we have here on campus. In our time at Carleton, we have rarely seen security acting with a “gotcha” approach: it is infrequent that security officers card minors after shutting down a party. When they find a student walking with an open container, they likely ask the student to pour it out rather than taking down a name. Even this Wednesday night was a true testament to the trust and respect security has for Carleton students. When security arrived at Recitations, rather than breaking up the event, they advised students to be careful about volume, and after assessing the situation, drove away.
The comparison between Carleton and SMC is obviously not a perfect one—SMC is a community college with a student body with different needs, and different security challenges.
However, the bottom line is this: especially in the spring, as the fun increasingly moves outdoors, we should recognize that without security ensuring the overall safety of our campus, we would not be able to pursue all of these fun activities.