Campus Safety in the Time of the Novel Coronavirus

By Sarah MacKenzie

This semester has been one like no other. Masks are required on campus grounds, many classes are remote, and the social life has taken a sharp right turn to the Tower, the deck of Silverstein, and the “Blue Garden” (that muddy patch outside of Myers). No longer are Sunnies apartments crowded with students of all ages. Students have been pushed out of the sweaty parties and out into the open! However, just as the social scene is adjusting, so is the treatment that the students receive from Campus Safety, more casually known as Campo. In addition to our usual data gathering, we interviewed two students to hear about their experiences with the conduct procedure this semester. It seems, in many situations, men seem to be treated with harsher punishments with women.

Both students requested to remain anonymous but they graciously shared their experiences with us nonetheless. The first story is from a junior boy who was written up originally for having a non roommate in his room. Then he was at one of those Blue Garden parties and wasn’t wearing a mask when an RA approached him and requested that he put a mask on. The student left the large party because he did not want to escalate the situation more. Next thing he knew he was being called in for a conduct meeting and was informed that he was being sent home.

Another experience came from a senior girl who was reported for having multiple guests in her room. Campo showed up to her room in response to the report and asked to search the room. Before finishing the search, he had to run because of a fire alarm report from another building. That officer did not see anyone in the room other than our interviewee and, like the junior boy, the officer did not indicate that he was going to write her up. Then a couple days later she too received a message from the conduct board and was sentenced to write a five-page paper regarding the mistake she made and what she was going to do differently going forward.

These two individuals had vastly different outcomes from their Community Care Agreement violations. We were wondering if it had anything to do with gender, but it seems that the real issue was the actual conduct process for these two and the role that Campo had in their cases. 127 wanted to see if this was a consensus around campus and if people were divided on Campo’s role at Denison. For example, is it easy to understand what students will be punished for? And, does Campo target particular groups for social distancing violations?

It is clear that the campus is divided over the role of Campo. While 53% of students agree that it is easy to understand what they will be punished for, 33% don’t (and 13% shrug). Moreover, a near majority (47%) is not convinced that the rules followed by Campo are clear and concrete. Although not entirely surprising that students are divided on what is actually happening with Campo, one intriguing area is the majority that doesn’t have a strong opinion about Campo’s targeting policies (53% in the middle 3 categories). Perhaps this signals that the highest percentage of participants by grade are the first years. So, we decided to take a closer look at the opinion of campus safety by class year.

It seems that the freshmen have the most positive view of Campo in comparison to the upperclassmen. Additionally, the men of the first year class signaled they approve of Campo the most throughout the entire student body. But why? Is it because the freshmen have less experience on campus therefore they know less about how conduct is handled? Or, is this year just so different that the view of Campus Safety is solely related to the write-ups which have resulted in students leaving campus?

These questions make us think about the relationship between people getting sent home and their friends’ reactive view of Campo. The data from 127’s survey shows that the freshmen are the least likely to know someone that has been asked to leave campus for violating the Community Care Agreement. Therefore, perhaps the freshmen have the most positive view of Campo because fewer of their friends were sent home this semester.

Open and troubling questions about experiences with Campo during this extraordinary semester shed light on the effect a pandemic has on Denison’s community. As the semester wraps up successfully (we did it!), it will be important to think about clarifications and changes that can be made to the Community Care Agreement and how it is carried out by the students and Campo. But for now, Denison students will head home and face the real world as the pandemic worsens across the country.

Sarah MacKenzie is a senior Political Science major from Denver, Colorado. You can find her spending too much time in Knapp and talking about climate change.

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