Claims that Security is conducting random searches of student dorm rooms are not true, according to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Josh McIntosh, Associate Dean of Students for Student Support and Community Standard Carl Steidel, and Director of Security and Campus Safety Tom Carey.
“We are not randomly going into students’ rooms,” McIntosh said.
Due to an increased presence of Security in the dorms, as part of a community effort initiated by the Department of Security and Campus Safety, blatant violations of college or state policy are more frequently detected. That is, Security is present in the dorms and therefore will notice if there are violations of college policy, such as the smell of marijuana or visible bottles of hard alcohol, to name a few.
Carey explained that Security placed an emphasis on getting to know students in the first-year dorms to set the tone in terms of safety and responsibility for their time a Bates. The desired end is that first-years would become familiar and comfortable with the Security Officers and understand their role on campus.
“The fundamental issue with it is to try to have Security have a presence on campus in places where students start to recognize them as part of the community, as a member of the community, and quite frankly a helpful member of the community,” McIntosh said.
Steidel added that the motivation behind the presence in the dorms and around campus is to “build relationships,” not just limiting interactions with security to incidents involving conduct violations.
Security’s staff underwent some changes over the last year, only just returning to a full staff earlier this fall. Though these changes were not explicitly advertised, they are now a full staff and aim to be “consistent and even-handed” when handling violations of college policy.
The increased presence of Security facilitated a narrative that Security Officers were present in dorms more often in order to get more students in trouble or meet some type of quota.
“There are no quotas, there are no expectations that they knock on a certain number of dorms or that they write off certain number of reports,” Steidel said.
“Never has been, never will be,” Carey added.
When there are clear violations of college policy—such as loud music, the smell of marijuana, or beer pong tables in common spaces—Security personnel have a responsibility to intervene.
Students discussed these searches at the recent BCSG Town Hall meeting and via anonymous posts on Yik Yak.
However, this reporter reached out to an alleged victim of one such search, but received no response before deadline.
If a student feels they were not respected or that they were treated unfairly, McIntosh, Steidel and Carey want to know of those incidents.
These conversations need to be grounded in something “specific and correct,” McIntosh said.
“I’ve heard quite a bit of conversation around this, but nobody I’ve actually talked to that’s talked to me about this stuff has actually personally experienced it,” McIntosh said. Reports of disrespect by a Security officer have come from second or third parties.
According to college policy, Security maintains the right to enter any room at any time.
“The reality of the practice and the way that we’ve directed officers around the practice of that is to not just randomly enter students’ rooms, but when there is a reason to enter a student room, and it involves safety issues, to do so,” McIntosh said.
On very rare occasions, a dean on-call can authorize the search of student’s room. More often than not, these authorized searches occur if a student is not cooperating or if there is an overriding safety concern.
“In reality, over the years that I have been here, when [authorized searches] have generally been used is because of some very specific information that has been provided to us and the deans that we feel obligated to have to take action,” Carey said.
“We do not think it is a wise or sound practice to be randomly going into students’ rooms, unless there is a reason to go into those rooms,” McIntosh added.
Authorized searches are not the preferred means of addressing suspected conduct violations. Cooperation and understanding is the goal, and, more often than not, students are cooperative.
“Fundamentally this is about relationships. What makes Bates special is its relationships…and we want to sustain and maintain those relationships while also realizing we have a responsibility to intervene in these situations,” McIntosh said.