To serve and disturb

The warm, reassuring sense of security is a great feeling. It’s like being hugged by an enormous, friendly, bullet-proof ghost. Thank goodness there’s a task force on campus apparently dedicated to instilling and cultivating this feeling within the student body.

Cheese it, boys, here comes security! Oh my god he’s on a Segway! Oh my god he’s gunning it! Oh my god he’s going almost five miles an hour! Creative Commons.

I’m talking about Campus Safety, of course. Formerly known as “Safety & Security,” Campus Safety took the opportunity to streamline their name several years ago in order to optimize word economy among students discussing the department’s purpose on campus and whether or not it has anything to do with the feeling of security.

I’ve realized that I find myself feeling more threatened than protected by those our school employs to keep us out of harm’s way. When I hear “Campus Safety” after a knock on my door in the middle of a Tuesday, I don’t get a warm, secure feeling in my stomach. Actually, I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I wonder what kind of trouble I’m going to have to deal with here.”

Something’s not right when my reflexive reaction to seeing someone who’s allegedly here to improve my experience at school is to wonder if this person is going to use their power to jeopardize my academic career. This sounds like paranoia, and it may be a guilty conscience, but can you blame me? When’s the last time you’ve heard of a safety officer protecting a student, rather than apprehending one?

I’m incredibly thankful to be able to attend a school that is as free from violent assault and theft as this one is, but that isn’t to say that it is devoid of these crimes. And in the cases where students on campus have been robbed or assaulted, I have yet to hear of our safety crew apprehending the culprit. I had always assumed that this was because these sorts of cases are just not publicized in the interest of maintaining anonymity, but I’m starting to have my doubts. I recently paid a visit to the Campus Safety office to report a theft. I was treated politely, with patient, attentive listening and then buried in red tape. I was assured that something would get done … eventually … once the proper reports were filed to the appropriate officers … and they won’t be on campus for several days yet. My lost item could wait for the weekend to pass, but try reporting a suspicious smell on a Friday night and watch how fast they come running.

In cases involving drug and alcohol violations, process and paperwork become malleable, while efficient enforcement skyrockets. Definitions of things like admission of guilt and invitation to search and seizure become hazy for some reason. Victimless crimes seem to garner a lot more vigilance from security officers.

I’m not saying that there’s an easy solution to this uncomfortable relationship between those given power and those they have power over. This is a microcosm of nationally prominent frustrations with no solution in sight, but why not put the smaller scale of our issue to good use? We live on a campus where we can hold open forums discussing how we want disciplinary policies enforced, so let’s open up some forums. We can’t force them to listen, but we can make them hear, and if my voice were to be heard I’d have it say: Let’s rework your policies and how you enforce them; I wouldn’t mind feeling protected, rather than invaded. Or don’t, and just change your name to Campus Control.