With eight unsolved thefts, two student arrests, and one banned person this semester, some are left to wonder whether the biggest culprit might be the community itself.
On Aug. 22, a student was arrested on-campus for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, possession of narcotics equipment, and possession of two other unidentifiable substances that, according to Chief of Police Michael Kessie, were later revealed to be Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, and Psilocybin mushrooms, commonly known as ‘shrooms.
Earlier this month, Carlos Marcio Ramirez, a guest of a student on campus, was given a No Trespass Order (NTO) for posting fliers around the school that alluded to sexual assault and for sending private, threatening messages to several students.
A string of thefts has also plagued this semester. Among the missing items are two laptops taken from the Jane Bancroft Cook Library and two bicycles. According to Dean of Student Affairs Tracy Murry and Chief Kessie, there are no leads for any of the reported thefts.
At the end of the semester, on Nov. 19, second-year Carl Romer, formerly known as Carl Polak, was arrested for possession with intent to sell of less than 20 grams of cannabis and LSD. Additional substances were obtained to be identified after lab tests and added to his charge. While the arrest on Aug. 22 was due to a report by a member of administration, Campus Life Coordinator (CLC) Meghan Walde, Romer’s arrest came about after a former roommate gave a tip to campus police. New College police officer Dale Stephenson signed an affidavit after receiving information from National Student Exchange (NSE) student, David Duffrin.
According to Chief Kessie, protection of Duffrin has been turned over to Student Affairs.
“It’s a big concern,” Murry said. “We’ve made the police aware of the stuff that’s on social media that seems like it’s direct threats to [Duffrin]. We hope things are just heat of the moment and things calm down. […] I don’t think this was a matter of somebody just wanting to get someone else in trouble. I think there were some real issues there. When anybody is involved in an incident whether as a plaintiff, a witness, or even as a person that’s accused and there’s safety involved, we have safe rooms, we can relocate people, we can move them to hotels, and we’ve done this once or twice a year where something is going on.”
Students worry that the events this semester will take a toll on the openness and sense of community on campus.
“We wish we had a certain type of environment where we can be completely open, and then there’s the reality,” Murry said. “I think if we were a little more aware, a little more cautious, we would lose some of that freedom and openness that we like and that’s just a constant balancing act and the place where you want to be is always changing. I don’t think anybody wants a complete closed down campus where nobody feels comfortable walking around but, on the other hand, the days of a completely open campus are probably not what we want either.”
Some students are also concerned about how this will affect administration’s treatment of substance usage on campus.
“You guys are young people and it’s not like we should be celebrating this, we should be stepping back and looking at the community and what we can do to prevent this from happening,” Chief Kessie said. “It’s not an enjoyable feeling, especially being a parent myself. It’s part of our job, we also have to look at the fact that hard drugs on our campus are a problem–we saw what happened in May.”
However, others remain hopeful that campus community is still alive and well.
“I wouldn’t say it’s decreased by any means, though perhaps trust in the campus community has decreased,” New College Student Alliance (NCSA) co-president and third-year Paige Pellaton said. “There have been a lot of positive reactions to victims of thefts to arrested parties, and by that I mean support for victims. I think that has, if anything, increased in the support individuals show toward the victims of these issues.”
Following Romer’s arrest, second-year Rebecca “Becca” Caccavo started a petition in support of allowing Romer to finish the rest of the semester. More than 900 people have signed. Caccavo also created a gofundme – “The Free Romer Fund” – on Nov. 20, which has raised over $2,000. Both the petition and gofundme have received support from students, alums and parents.
“This petition is a call to action, to let the New College of Florida administration and faculty know not only how valued Carl is to our community, but that he deserves to stay at New College for his education,” reads the petition. “Carl’s education is worth more than consequences for an uncharged, unproven and victimless crime.”