Students voice thoughts on security

 Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

Security at Sarah Lawrence has always been a topic of debate among SLC students. Sometimes they will break up parties and sometimes they will turn a blind eye. Sometimes the shuttle will come and sometimes it does not show up. When asked for their thoughts on security, student responses also fell on these extremes. Security is neither friend nor foe here at SLC.

Jeremy Lipsin ’15, reported that he had some friendly encounters with Security Guards on campus. As someone who works in Admissions, he has had friendly exchanges with Security. “I work the front desk sometimes as a tour guide,” Lipsin clarified. “Just today the security guard next to me and I had a bonding moment in which we both shared a bag of chips.”

Lipsin also spoke of a time when Security came to address a noise complaint at an apartment in Hill House, where he and his friends were having a karaoke party. “Apparently, one of the neighbors complained and sent security over to shut us up. After he passed on the message, he walked away with a ‘Nice singing, though!’”

 Lipsin concluded with this final thought: “Security can either be ridiculously strict or completely chill. It really depends on who they are or the time of day; not who you are or whatever you might be up to.”

Other students, however, have not had the same set of positive experiences as Lipsin has. One female student I spoke with, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that a driver for the van into Bronxville sexually harassed her. “Last semester I honestly did not feel very safe on campus, especially after the incident with that shuttle driver. He didn't seem to understand boundaries, and what it means when someone says, ‘no thank you.’”

She had taken him up on an offer he has with SLC students where he drives them to the airport, an experience that has made her feel even more unsafe. “It felt weird having to give him my phone number, too. The fact that this guy not only drove the Bronxville shuttle, which I take often, but also had my phone number and could get access into my dorm made me feel uneasy ever since that incident.” The student did not go into detail about the nature of the incident, but she was visibly shaken and uneasy while talking about it.

The anonymous student had other grievances, though, saying, “He is not the only one I am disappointed with though. I have seen a few security guards or maintenance workers (not sure which ones they were) steal food from the pub […] I have also had many negative experiences when being picked up in Bronxville. Too many times have I waited for the shuttle and it doesn't arrive at all, even after calling Westlands.”

She explained that she carries the schedule with her, and knows the times when the shuttle should arrive. “I know when the shuttle should be arriving, yet, a lot of times it never arrives at all. I don't feel like I can rely on them anymore.” Sometimes, she has had to resort to paying for a cab back to campus out of frustration. “Other students who have waited with me feel the same frustration as I do and we were very upset.” She ended our conversation with the question, “Why should I have to pay for a cab when I am given the right by the school to take a shuttle that is free and SHOULD be reliable [sic]?”

To get further clarification regarding Security at Sarah Lawrence, Larry Hoffman- the Head of Security, answered a few questions regarding security on campus.

How does one become a security guard here?

First of all, all candidates interested in a position as SLC Security officer must be certified by NYS.  Then they go through a rigorous selection process here which usually includes a minimum of three interviews.  A complete background check is done on each officer.  During the interview process, candidates are questioned as to how they would react in specific situations.  We often use role-playing to see how they would react in stressful situations.  Once a new officer is hired, they are assigned to be with a supervisor or an experienced officer for several weeks before they can patrol on their own.

Do security guards have a handbook or set guidelines to follow?

Security officers have standard operating procedures they must follow.  They also receive 40 hours of training each summer.  Some of the training includes the following: emergency planning, first Aid, CPR, automatic external defibrillators, college rules, regulations, security procedures, report writing, accident investigations, fire safety, crime prevention, NYS Laws, domestic violence, sexual assault, and customer service.

How do you respond to allegations made against security guards? Is there a formal procedure in place should a student file a complaint?

Students would come to Operations to file an official complaint.  Each and every complaint is thoroughly investigated.  Disciplinary action up to and including termination can occur if the complaint is found to be valid.

How do you think the students feel about security on this campus?

I think most of our students feel safe with the professional and customer service oriented jobs that our officers perform at the college.  Students also feel comfortable in coming to them when they need assistance.  It is my belief that when officers have to take enforcement actions like giving out tickets to students, our students realize they are just doing their jobs and do not take it personally.

Security here at SLC is just like any other function of the administration: it is complicated and many students have varied opinions on Security as a whole. Some students are friends with the guards – and have great experiences with them – while others have had worrisome interactions with the guards that prove that maybe it is more than students’ “taking it personally,” as Hoffman states. 

by Rachel Molland '15
rmolland@gm.slc.edu