Residence Coordinators Discuss Campus Safety Presence & Intervention

“Not everyone’s idea of Safety involves Security”

“Not all students are equally impacted by the restrictions in place this year, whether that is because of their housing placement or their identity,” Helen Carr ‘21 shared with The Student. 

Since being back on campus this fall, some students have noted an increased presence of Campus Safety (formerly Campus Security) as a result of the new COVID-19 regulations and policies. In light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and calls to defund the police, several Residence Coordinators (RCs) have expressed concern for how this affects whether or not students feel safe on campus. 

The Student spoke with four RCs from the class of 2021 who shared their thoughts on this issue. 

Safe Spaces on Campus

On Sept. 25, Layla Dozier ‘21 and Genesis Paulino ‘21 sent an email asking their fellow RCs to encourage “more peer-to-peer interactions between students to eliminate any feelings of unsafety that security’s presence might bring in situations like noise complaints or other level one offenses.”

Dozier is the RC of Chu Hall and Paulino is the RC of Parker Hall. Together, they drafted an email template for fellow RCs to share with their residents. Their message highlights “that everyone has the right to live in a safe space on campus. In doing so, we need to remember that everyone’s idea of safety is different and does not always involve the presence of security.”

Helen Carr is the RC of both Hayes House and Parsons House this year. In her opinion, “increased walk-throughs this year pose problems both due to added risk that COVID is entering the dorms and because students should be able to be comfortable in their living space without having Security come through and making them uncomfortable.” 

Carr also pointed out that Campus Safety is less informed about who lives where than Residence Life staff typically are. 

“This type of increased activity is simply going to limit residents from being comfortable socializing within the guidelines in public spaces in their dorm, rather than effectively discouraging students from being in others dorms,” she said.  

This summer, Campus Security changed its name to Campus Safety. Internal changes to the department included hiring two new staff members and changing their focus to “customer service.” Senior Associate Dean of Students Carl Steidel described these changes as “student and community member interactions and working to achieve greater alignment with the college’s educational mission.”

Despite Campus Safety’s name change, most students still refer to the department as “Security.”  RC Community Leader (RCCL) David Akinyemi ‘21 doesn’t think this will change anytime soon. I don’t think students will refer to security as something else because it’s kind of ingrained in the Bates community that that’s what they are,” he said. 

Peer-to-Peer Interactions

Both Dozier and Paulino would like to see more peer-to-peer interactions, such as students reaching out to their JAs or RCs prior to contacting Campus Safety, and they’re trying to understand what’s preventing students from communicating directly with each other. 

“You share the same space, use the same bathroom…we’re a community and we should have respect for each other,” Dozier pointed out. “What’s stopping people from just knocking on their neighbor’s door?”

What’s stopping people from just knocking on their neighbor’s door?

— Layla Dozier '21

“With the recent activism around the world surrounding racial inequities, it is imperative that we re-evaluate our desires to call Security on situations that can be handled with [Residence Life] staff and with each other. With that being said, we hope that we can create an environment for residents to communicate with one another or us,” Dozier and Paulino stated in their email. 

Carr emphasized another important point, namely that “there is no way to have students policing each other without their biases and assumptions seriously coming into play.” For example, “Black and Brown students are often viewed as being louder regardless of how loud they are actually being and that can impact how Security treats them,” she said. 

Residence Life Staff

Dozier believes that ResLife has a responsibility to facilitate and help develop this sense of community so that students become more comfortable with peer-to-peer interactions. 

Delmar agrees: “I think that RCs can play a big part in mitigating the issues that arise in residence halls,” he said “We are an often under-utilized resource and can act as the first response or second response to events that are happening in a residence hall.”

I think that RCs can play a big part in mitigating the issues that arise in residence halls,” he said “We are an often under-utilized resource and can act as the first response or second response to events that are happening in a residence hall.

— Nathan Delmar '21

Similarly, Akinyemi shared that “RCs come into play and should act as a person you can reach out to when you want things done.” 

Both Dozier and Carr emphasized that JAs and RCs are “students first,” and that they can’t be expected to be available at all hours. Nevertheless, Dozier believes that “ResLife needs to play a bigger role in mediating dorm situations,” which she said could include having a ResLife staff member present when security is called. 

Carr pointed out that there could be “a student mediator or restorative justice fellow [who] arrives to calls like parties and noise complaints.” Yet she emphasized that this position would need to be compensated, and in a way that is reflective of the importance of the role. 

Akinyemi cited the Green Dot Bystander Intervention methods as another potential alternative to calling Campus Safety. He also reiterated that RCs and JAs “or just other people in the building” are resources to call upon. 

Programming and Community Building 

In response to some of the concerns that have been raised by students and ResLife staff, several RCs are currently working on a template that will provide residents with a flow chart including various scenarios and alternatives to calling Campus Safety, where possible. 

Carr believes that there needs to be increased clarity around students’ rights when it comes to Campus Safety interventions. “Many students don’t know that they are allowed in an incident to request a female officer,” she said. “These are major rights students have that they need to know about and the officers either way shouldn’t be overstepping their bounds.” 

I think every arriving student should receive a physical handbook of the security policy as well as their on-campus rights.

— Helen Carr ‘21

One programming idea that Akinyemi shared is having ResLife staff  “[teach] students about their rights as a student as well as skills or maybe the proper protocol based off of the interaction they’re faced with.”

Ultimately, most RCs believe it comes down to community building. 

“I guess the goal is that you build a tight-knit community within your building so you can reach out to people when you’re having disputes, which is similar to how things work in the real world,” Akinyemi said. “I don’t think you’d call the police for every dispute or problem you have.” 

Residence Coordinators are required to offer at least two programs for their residents per semester, one of which must fit an educational theme. Therefore, designing and implementing an interactive program around these issues could fulfill one of their programming requirements. 

Lewiston Police on Campus

Not all RCs have noticed an uptake in Campus Safety presence. This appears especially true for RCs residing on Frye Street, including RCCL Akinyemi and Nathan Delmar, RC of Wilson House and Small House. 

The presence of Lewiston police, on the other hand, “has drastically increased” on and around campus, according to Delmar. He cited three separate weekend nights when he observed Lewiston police walking down Frye Street this semester. Delmar also described two specific incidents he recently witnessed. 

The first was when Lewiston Police stopped Bates students in front of Rand Hall for “jaywalking.” Delmar said he heard that the “the student was [noted down] in the Lewiston police system.” 

The second incident involved Lewiston Police “[using] their police intercom to stop students while they were running on the sidewalk” and asking students to “pull over.” Delmar thinks the students were confused by this command since there were no cars driving on Frye Street, and he heard them ask the officer if he was speaking to them. The officer then responded by “[asking] the students why they were running with masks on.”

According to Delmar, “[these] actions suggest that the [Lewiston Police Department] is trying to incite fear into the Bates community.”

Steidel told Residence Life staff in a meeting on Sept. 15 that “Bates has a liaison with LPD through the community resource officer. That is the primary path to addressing intersecting issues between the college and LPD.” 

He then offered an explanation for the increased presence of Lewiston police. “LPD also has a grant that funds efforts to curb underage drinking,” he said. “Part of that grant funds additional patrols that include public streets around campus.” 

Contrary to some rumors, Steidel said there are no undercover police officers on campus. 

“[Officers] may be in an unmarked vehicle based on availability, but they will be wearing uniforms and have been instructed to identify themselves clearly when interacting in the Bates community.” 

The Future of Campus ‘Safety’ at Bates

Dozier described the relationship between her community in New York City and the New York Police Department as “rocky,” and said the NYPD is regarded as a negative force in many neighborhoods. 

One of her goals is to get Campus Safety to understand that the way they police campus brings back memories and feelings of being threatened for many students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). “This may not change in our time, but we’re trying to get that understanding to be there,” she said. 

Both Akinyemi and Dozier want to see a change in how Campus Safety polices campus. Both agree that Campus Safety should play a more informative role and act as a resource, rather than as an enforcement or policing entity. For Dozier, this includes “getting you to and through certain places on campus versus [making you feel] like you’re going to get caught.” 

“Even before [the pandemic], security was still here to police our actions,” Dozier said. “It felt like they were scrutinizing our every move, including where we were and who we were with.” 

Security and policing needs to be reshaped, “starting with Bates, into Lewiston and beyond,” Dozier shared. 

Hence these RCs are seeking to bring about change so that future generations of students, and especially students who identify as BIPOC, feel safe on and around campus. 

Bate Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.