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

Department of Education representatives visit campus to hear concerns over sexual assault

Graphic by Lexie Brown '17

Graphic by Lexie Brown '17

TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions sexual assault and rape

At 2 PM on April 2, about 15 students attended a meeting with representatives of the Department of Education. The two representatives, John Collins and Anna Moretto Cramer came to Sarah Lawrence to investigate the college’s adherence to Title IX, a clause in the Education Amendment of 1972 that bans discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions.

The representatives plan on having another open meeting at SLC, most likely during the week of April 28. They are considering holding two meetings in the afternoon and evening.

The students present explained their personal perceptions and experiences of Sarah Lawrence’s response to sexual assault. Topics such as Sarah Lawrence’s lack of transparency about procedures that followed a report of sexual assault, the failure of administrators to provide complainants’ with options, security’s poor or slow response to reports and administrators’ negative attitudes and reactions to criticism were discussed.

During the meeting, students also talked about the various ways in which the school had tried to address students concerns such as Karen Lawrence’s announcement to the student body, the optional consent workshop held earlier this semester, and the flyers with phone numbers to call in case of sexual assault which were put up a few days before the DOE arrived.

Collins and Moretto Cramer were particularly interested in the efforts of many members of the student body to push for reform of the sexual assault policy this past fall semester. The representatives took a hard copy of the Demand and Grievances that was compiled when students coalesced for reform and were also sent an electronic copy.

There was also a discussion about Sarah Lawrence’s efforts to notify students about this meeting. Many felt that the administration had failed to adequately inform their students. At the time, many of the students claimed that they had not received a notification from the administration. And while a universal email was sent by Julie Auster on March 18, the email did not detail the reason for the Department of Education’s visit and simply said, “see attached” with the flyer from the representatives.

Among the students there was a sense of frustration with the administration, but also relief that Collins and Moretto Cramer were willing to listen and be receptive of student’s personal experiences with Sarah Lawrence’s response to sexual assault.

The meeting lasted over an hour. While most of the student’s had to leave, the discussion with Collins and Moretto Cramer was able to continue. They were unable to tell who had reported Sarah Lawrence to the DOE, but explained that while most of their investigation would be based off school records, they considered the student body’s experiences to be relevant. Out of concern, it was suggested they look at the records with a critical eye since from past discussions with administrators the numbers seem to be inconsistent with the student body’s experiences. Collins assured me, “every answer creates more questions.” They explained that no matter what the outcome of their investigation that they would continue to track Sarah Lawrence’s compliance with Title IX for several years. Moretto Cramer and Collins said that they were relieved to see a better turn-out at the second meeting, because after the first meeting they were concerned that they were not going to reach many students.

Since Collins and Moretto Cramer had planned to hold individual meetings with students, Izzy Waxman ’14 and myself followed them to the Slonim Library, where the various sections of the document were looked over and any confusion about wording was clarified. No other student came, so we were able to talk with the represenatives for over an hour. During the meeting we explained the circumstances revolving around the writing of the Demand and Grievances stating that over 200 students received and were given the option to give feedback on the document. The organized student March in response to a string of emails about sexual assaults and the meetings students had held afterwards were brought up. Waxman told the representatives that many students were under the impression that the administration did not take these concerns seriously.

By the end of the meeting, Moretto Cramer and Collins took contact information. They requested that as many students as possible could be sent any information whether critical or supportive of Sarah Lawrence’s handling of sexual assault. Specifically they are interested in student’s personal experiences. They state that if any student would like to contact them, the student does not have to provide concrete evidence of their experiences and that all personal information will be removed from the information that they take into consideration. This information was sent to the list of emails that were collected during last semester’s student coalition.

If you would like to contact the Department of Education with your experiences, please consider emailing John Collins at john.collins@ed.gov and Anna Moretto Cramer at anna.moretto.cramer@ed.gov.

If you are concerned about your personal information being attached, consider emailing me at icusack@gm.slc.edu and I will be sure to remove personal information before forwarding it to them.

The representatives of the DOE will notify me when they plan on holding another meeting and I will make an effort to let as many students know about it as possible. Please email me if you would like to be notified. 

by India Cusack '14

icusack@gm.slc.edu

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.