Following months of debate that stretched across three New College Student Alliance (NCSA) administrations, a new agreement concerning the official cutoff time for Walls has been reached between students and the administration. Walls no longer have a mandatory cutoff time of 2:00 a.m. and may now run until noise complaints shut them down or until the events naturally wane.
“It’s a flashpoint for a lot of student self-governance issues,” President Gordon “Mike” Michalson told the Catalyst. “It has important features in and of itself but it is also representative of the wider issue of the balance among all interests in student self-governance issues.”
Students were informed of the change via an e-mail sent on April 22 announcing the formal lifting of the presidential decree issued in response to the battery of two students during a Wall in September 2008. The decree mandated Walls to end by 2:00 a.m. as an effort to prevent such events from happening again but became a major sticking point for students wishing to have more of a say in campus affairs.
“When I learned that 2:00 a.m. was when the local bars tend to close and a lot of people come out looking for the next party and are attracted by the noise, I was advised that it would be a good measure to have a 2:00 a.m. closure,” Michalson said. When asked by the Catalyst who advised him to make such a measure, Michalson responded that the recommendation came from Dean of Students Wendy Bashant and officials in the Campus Police Department. The Catalyst was unable to reach Bashant for comment.
While some students have argued that the edict was clandestinely permanent, Michalson said the decree was meant to be lifted at a later date. “It was always intended to be temporary — as time went by, it became, as we like to say, ‘the new normal,’” he noted.
For the NCSA, the aspect of Wall times was not the main issue at play, but rather one of student self-governance and responsibility. “It’s about proper decision-making and proper policymaking,” Co-president Oliver Peckham said. “I think that’s always a topic for discussion and always hoping to address in our capacity.”
“Very few of the discussions that we had had to do with the times that Walls ended,” Co-president Michael Long explained. “Almost all of our discussions were about us being involved in the policymaking process and the proper way to write policy. For us at least, that’s what this issue was about. It wasn’t about us being able to party later. It was about us having a say in what governs our community.”
With Walls going later into the night, increased security becomes an issue. Additional costs for supplementary police officers are currently being borne by the administration, though Lieutenant Michael Kessie told the Catalyst that the costs may vary depending in scheduling. “It depends who is working and how long they need to stay,” he wrote in an e-mail. “If we have two officers scheduled then theoretically no overtime would be expended unless we have a very large or unruly crowd then we would hold over afternoon officer(s) if need be. The cost of having officers stay over is very subjective. The officers’ overtime rate from the lowest to the highest paid is $25.29 to $32.75 per hour. For example, if there is only one midnight officer scheduled after 11:00 p.m. then one afternoon officer would have to stay until the Wall is over, lets say 4:00 a.m. That would be a cost of $126.45 to $163.75.” Kessie also noted that because schedules are designed in part along with union contracts, “there could be future issues with the union if we constantly are changing the officers’ schedules at the last minute.”
The NCSA noted that dorm patrol continues to operate until 5:00 a.m. on weekends to supplement extant security measures on campus, along with the presence of additional volunteer security forces who will act in a similar way. Long said that the NCSA has met with the Campus Police Department and that the police have agreed to support whatever policy is implemented.
When asked if a cutoff could be reinstated due to security concerns, such as another incident similar to that of September 2008, the NCSA said that any future debate regarding Wall times should be community-driven. “The community as a whole would have to decide that,” Long said. “We would hope that if there was a danger to our students that the community would decide. But that’s backtracking for us. We would not want to implement something out of our own accord.”
“I don’t think that the current administration would do that in a unilateral way,” Peckham added. “There would not be another unilateral decision made. I feel very comfortable saying that.”
The Catalyst posed the same question concerning the potential creation of another cutoff if an incident took place to President Michalson. “If we had another incident that created a safety concern on campus, I would not hesitate for a second to introduce another closing time,” he said. “Campus safety has got to be our utmost concern across the board.”