New College has increased its police presence on campus. An email from the 2023 Halloween Center of the Universe Party (COUP) hosts Lainey Rose and Calypso Camacho stated, “The main news is that COUP is no longer allowed to have a chill-out room (or a low-sensory room) with the reasoning that it ‘encourages heavy drug use.’ We’re also not allowed to have Fairies or Dryads, because it apparently puts too much pressure on relatively untrained students.” And further, “Cops will instead be patrolling the perimeter of COUP.”
During the evening of COUP, six police officers were seen patrolling the area around Hamilton “Ham” Center and the Banyan tree, known as the Nook. While this was said by Campus Police to be for student safety, some students voiced discomfort with their presence.
Prior to this year’s Halloween COUP, student volunteers known as Fairies and Dryads took a “party-safe class” offered by New College. They would walk around COUP with water and snacks to ensure that everyone remained hydrated, replenished and not overstimulated. Hamilton Classroom (HCL) 7 also served as a chill-out room where students could take a break in a low sensory area that provided snacks and water as wellIn 2021, the Catalyst wrote a similar article with other instances of campus police making students uncomfortable .
Second-year Alexandra Denner explained her COUP experience and her general discomfort toward the uptick in police patrols “As someone who has used the cool-down room in the past, I really appreciated having it as an option. Not having the Fairies and Dryads just made me feel unsafe, not necessarily in terms of drug/alcohol overdose scares, but in terms of having a sober person around to make sure boundaries weren’t crossed and everyone was keeping their hands to themselves,” Denner stated. Having police patrolling during the party made her feel “unsafe and scared. I feel like I no longer have anyone to turn to when I’m in a dangerous situation, because I don’t trust the cops to help me.”
Another student, who asked that their name be held confidential, said that having a police presence “for a college party of mostly adults, feels way too observant and supervised with ill intent rather than protection.” The student explained that they noticed an increase of police patrol at Walls, as well as smaller campus parties hosted by students. They said that the increase of police means anincrease of weapons on campus, which makes the police less approachable and more intimidating.
COUP co-host and second year Lainey Rose described to the Catalyst how officers did not stay in previously decided upon locations during the event. “I did not like that [campus police] were standing on the steps of Ham. We checked beforehand to ensure they would only be on the perimeter and they continued to stay, just watching over in a group on the steps. I tried asking them if there was an issue since I was a host and they responded saying everything was good, they were just going to stay there to ensure safety. This was honestly just frustrating because of the agreement we made beforehand and also because I know many students felt uncomfortable by their close proximity to the party.”
Students have taken notice of campus police openly patrolling more often and in larger numbers. Rose stated that she noticed an increase in officer presence even prior to COUP. “In the weeks leading up to COUP there were multiple instances of police patrolling people’s dorms and stopping them on their way back. They even came into one of the Walls, turned the lights on, and told people to get off the table that has been used for years at Walls.”
Thesis student Chai Leffler discussed how the police presence at COUP made them feel quite uncomfortable. “I am the Gender and Diversity Center (GDC) TA this year and gave full approval for [the knitting club] Anarchy Death Sticks to use the GDC for their own event. The police showed up and shut down the room and locked the doors while a friend of mine was about to go in there to chill out because he was overstimulated. The police can help in emergencies, but having Fairies and Dryads act as mediators made me feel less surveilled and safe to have fun.”
Leffler described experiences with campus police when trying to enter their place of work. “Even when they were helpful, like when the GDC office door locks and I call them to open it, and I explain that I am the TA and it’s my office, they still are suspicious and respond with ‘Well are you supposed to be in there? Why do you need to go in there? We can’t just open doors for anyone ,ya know.’ And even when I give them my name that I changed with the school back in Spring 2021, somehow it got removed and I have to provide my dead name for them to confirm that I’m a student. And then proceed to get dead named by the officers and have to ask them to please use my preferred name.”
Leffler expressed discomfort with the number of officers compared to the small number of students. “No campus police officer should have a gun, especially at a school with 700 students, not to mention a Wall with maybe 30 students max. It’s just not needed and makes me feel even less safe than just their presence would on its own.”
Captain Kelley Masten of the Campus Police Department (CPD), answered questions about how to bridge this gap between students and the police in an email interview with the Catalyst. “For students to feel truly safe and supported, it’s vital that campus police build trust with them. The more students trust those who keep campuses safe, the more comfortable they’ll be focusing on their academic pursuits. A safe campus is one where teaching and learning are not distracted; disruptions are minimized; violence, drugs, bullying and fear are not present; students are not discriminated against; expectations for behavior are clearly communicated; and consequences for infractions are consistently and fairly applied.
“CPD has increased the amount of community engagements over the past year as a way to promote community-building with students,” Masten continued. “We encourage students to consider attending an event, or even engaging in conversation with any officers they may see on campus.”
Masten explained why campus police increased their presence over the past few months. “CPD was asked not to be as involved in student events in the past several years; however, we have since increased proactive patrol on campus 24/7/365, to include all events. The job of law enforcement on campus is to provide safety and security to those who live here, work here and visit here. Students have expressed wanting CPD more vigilant and present during events. In early September, a meeting was held with CPD administration and members of the New College Student Alliance (NCSA), where a discussion regarding security, safety and CPD presence was held, ultimately resulting in the request for officers to be more visible on campus.”
Masten said that students should feel comfortable reporting a problem to campus police because “the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report campus crime data, support victims of violence and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety. The information you give us can help to bring the person who committed the crime to justice, which in turn, could help prevent further crimes and protect others from becoming victims. This also helps your community.”
Masten wants students to know that the CPD is trained for crisis intervention as well as Baker Act and Marchman Act training annually. She said she hopes students will become more comfortable with campus police and understand that they are present for students’ safety. The Catalyst emphasizes the need for students to feel safe and heard. One can contact Officer Danielle Pruner or Captain Masten at (941) 487-4210. The number for the New College Wellness Center is here.