At freshman orientation, students are often told that Public Safety is meant to be their friend. It is stressed that Public Safety is not campus police, but instead, a force on campus meant to preserve the best interests of the students. Similarly, we are told that the administration is a support system for students and that they are meant to provide us with the best experience on campus. Yet, recently, many students have felt as if Public Safety and administration have been enforcing policies and performing actions in a manner that are in direct contrast to the interests of the student community.
We at the Phoenix call for Public Safety and the administration to be more open with students about how they intend to enforce policies and the repercussions students may face for breaking a policy. We also believe that, if Public Safety or the administration see policy consistently being broken, they have a responsibility to remind students of the policy and how that policy is going to be enforced by the college.
For example, several students have reported that they have had small social gatherings shut down in their rooms for drinking alcohol, even when everyone in the room was of legal drinking age. Not only have students been confused as to why Public Safety wanted to enter their rooms, but there have also been incidents in which Public Safety recorded student identification numbers without informing students of what they intended to do with the information. We at The Phoenix find it unacceptable that students would have their student IDs recorded as if they were being cited without knowledge of what next steps or repercussions they may face.
After all, Swarthmore students are not children. Students are not actively seeking to break policy or act in direct opposition to Public Safety. Often, students are trying to take a break from the rigorous academic environment, and are engaging in what they see as harmless social activities. If the administration or Public Safety sees these social activities as a violation of policy, they should be more transparent about what exactly counts as a violation and how students can fix it.
Of course, we at The Phoenix recognize that the policies are outlined in the student handbook. While the Student Handbook is a useful and necessary document that discusses the basic rules for student conduct, many of the policies of the Handbook are vague or open-ended.
One of the concerns students have had is about when Public Safety would see a reason to enter student dorm rooms. If students refer to the Student Handbook, it states that Public Safety may enter a room without notice when “there is reason to believe that a College policy/rule, state, federal, or local law is being violated” or “in order to check the health and/or wellbeing of a student at any time” (page 21 of the Student Handbook). This policy tells the student very little about when they may be engaging in a behavior that would lead a Public Safety officer to enter their room. By this policy’s standards, Public Safety could enter a student’s room at any time, and a student is granted almost no information as to what would lead Public Safety to have reason to enter their room.
We recognize that Public Safety and the administration have a right to enforce policies and that the college is a private institution with rules and guidelines that students agree to follow when they commit to joining the Swarthmore community. However, we at the Phoenix believe that the administration has a responsibility to be more transparent with how policies will be enforced and the consequences students will face when a policy is not followed.