Liveblog: Public Safety External Review Student Session

Have thoughts about recent incidents involving P-Safe? Head to the Daniel Family Commons right now.

As ehc reported less than half an hour ago, two Public Safety officers have just been reported and fired for apparently viewing and possibly videotaping a female student in her residence. This follows on a long chain of recent incidents involving and sparking tensions between students and Public Safety officers this academic year.

Meanwhile, the administration has hired a University Public Safety Review Committee for an independent review of P-Safe at Wesleyan. According to a recent email from Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts, “The assessment will explore whether the Office of Public Safety has adopted and implemented an appropriate campus public safety model, based on our environment and campus expectations.” The reviewer is Margolis Healy, a “nationally reputable firm that specializes in campus safety and security” that has “provided similar services for dozens of other universities and colleges throughout North America.”

If you’re a Wesleyan student, “you are cordially invited to meet with Margolis Healy representatives to share any thoughts or questions you might have about Public Safety at Wesleyan in an open student session to be held on April 30 from 7–8 p.m. in the Daniel Family Commons in the Usdan Center.” You read correctly: that’s happening right now. Talk about timing. In case you can’t make it, Lesanjuan, Solomon, and I will be liveblogging the proceedings. Click past the jump.

lesanjuan April 30, 20136:59 PM

We’ll be getting things underway in a few minutes.

Zach April 30, 20136:59 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:00 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:00 PM

Doors to the interior of the Daniel Family Commons just opened. Pyrotechnics has entered the vicinity.

Zach April 30, 20137:05 PM

Gary Margolis, who represents Margolis Healy, is now addressing a casual crowd of about 25 students. “It’s always a good day when we get to talk to students,” says Gary.

Zach April 30, 20137:05 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:05 PM

Gary Margolis represents a firm that has been invited to campus and asked by Prez Roth to explore Department of Public Safety and to get a sense of how department is run.

Zach April 30, 20137:06 PM

Gary just mentioned to students that we’re liveblogging the forum, after we asked permission. This is meta.

Zach April 30, 20137:06 PM

We’ve promised not to mention any student attendees by name.

Solomon April 30, 20137:06 PM

Student attendees’ names will not be disclosed in the live blog.

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:06 PM

Margolis: we help colleges with safety and security issues.

justice April 30, 20137:06 PM

Gary just said that today’s been a fun day. I don’t believe him.

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:06 PM

Margolis: We’re all former chief of polices or heads of safety at other colleges.

Zach April 30, 20137:06 PM

Gary Margolis was the chief of police at UVM for 12 years; his partner was the chief of police Princeton and, before that, at Wellesley.

Zach April 30, 20137:06 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:07 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:07 PM

Mike Webster sits in; he is director of Public Safety at McDaniel.

Solomon April 30, 20137:08 PM

In short, this firm has a lot of experience with Public Safety on various campuses. “Our job is to understand you.”

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:08 PM

Margolis: We’ve got about 6.5 hours to get through this, so…

Zach April 30, 20137:08 PM

Margolis points at the Wesleying table: “You can blog that we’ve got a great sense of humor!”

Zach April 30, 20137:10 PM

A student from the class of 2013 is complaining that “it’s unfair and unrealistic to assume that there is only one party per street per night at Wesleyan.”

Zach April 30, 20137:10 PM

– “There is one street at Wesleyan that’s particularly popular…”
– “Oh, we’ve heard all about Fountain. We’re good!”

Zach April 30, 20137:10 PM
lesanjuan April 30, 20137:11 PM

“Having one event that holds 50 people [per street] is unreasonable”

Solomon April 30, 20137:11 PM

Student: A lot of time these kids are in the street, because the houses can’t hold them / the residents don’t want to get written up.

Zach April 30, 20137:11 PM

“The culture that this leads to is a bunch of students getting written up and getting slapped with judicial charges just because they live on a loud street,” complains unnamed Wesleyan student ’13.

Solomon April 30, 20137:12 PM

Student: We have gotten judicial points for events we didn’t host.

Zach April 30, 20137:13 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:14 PM

Four more students just filed in. Student ’13’s housemate, also a student ’13, is concurring about problems with parking (and cars being smashed) on Fountain.

Solomon April 30, 20137:15 PM

Margolis: “Is anyone here not a Wesleyan student?”

(No response.)

Fellow Panelist: “I’m not.”

Zach April 30, 20137:16 PM

Student ’14: “I have five things and I’ll try to keep it short.”
1) “In early winter, a student wrote racist slurs in the snow near where I’m an RA.” This student contacted P-Safe about this, they promised to send out an all-campus email, they never followed through, student doesn’t understand why they didn’t respond to this case of abuse.

Solomon April 30, 20137:18 PM

Student ’14: During housing meeting, rising seniors were advised by Dave Meyer to lock their doors, because Middletown residents could break in, steal belongings, and sell them for crack cocaine. “Highly racialized comment…very disturbing coming from the head of Public Safety.” Thinks it indicates a deep cultural problem.

Zach April 30, 20137:18 PM

3) “I think there’s a lot of incoherence in understanding the relationship between Public Safety and RAs and HMs.” People don’t understand what the policy is, respond in unpredictable and counterproductive ways.

Zach April 30, 20137:18 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:19 PM

Ok, seems like that student only made three points.

Zach April 30, 20137:19 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:20 PM

Student: To what degree are you aware of the on-campus assaults?

Zach April 30, 20137:22 PM

This student is talking about the recent sexual assault at “a fraternity on campus,” points out that we’ve received pretty limited information on this incident, refers to the safety incident that was allegedly perpetrated by Public Safety officers last fall.

Solomon April 30, 20137:23 PM

Student also mentions inconsistency of The Ride, says that it’s not really helpful if one doesn’t want to be waiting outside for too long.

Zach April 30, 20137:24 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:24 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:25 PM

Five more students just entered.

Zach April 30, 20137:26 PM
lesanjuan April 30, 20137:27 PM

That might be legalese, given that as far as I know, none of the accused Public Safety Officers has plead guilty or been convicted.

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:28 PM

Margolis: Our benchmark is against national standards for Public Safety departments. It’s fairly consistent, but applied different in urban vs. rural locations.

Zach April 30, 20137:28 PM

Margolis, in reply to a question about what they’re basing their recommendations on: “Our recommendations and analysis comes from our experiences and standards outside of Wesleyan.”

Zach April 30, 20137:29 PM
lesanjuan April 30, 20137:30 PM

Student: Will your report be publicly available?
Margolis: You’d have to talk to the President’s office.

Zach April 30, 20137:30 PM

Student ’13: “I was walking home from a friend’s house on Fountain during the week, at 2 or 3 in the morning. I walked on Lawn, I was wearing a hood at night, the P-Safe car saw me from a distance. I saw them stop and stop me from the street. I felt really scared. I think it’s important to say that I was wearing a hood…”

Zach April 30, 20137:31 PM

Response from Margolis: “Why is it that your perspective was that they were stalking you rather than they were making sure you were going home safely?”
Same student: “Because they were hovering from a distance in a car. IF they were really concerned about me walking home, they would have approached me on foot.”
Margolis: “Good point.”

Zach April 30, 20137:32 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:33 PM

Student: P-Safe will give you a ride if you need it, but they will also give you attitude about coming to get you.

Zach April 30, 20137:34 PM

Student ’13: “I think something that undermines that whole approach is a series of problems that have come out about Public Safety, and I think it creates a distrust of P-Safe from students. Then when they see them doing these things, we no longer are open to them as ‘Oh, they’re here to help me’ rather than ‘They’re here to physically attack, maybe they’re here to racially profile me.'”

Zach April 30, 20137:35 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:37 PM

Student: I was stopped on the way home after a week of assaults and I was asked for my Wesleyan ID and if I was a student here and I didn’t have it. Felt targeted.

Zach April 30, 20137:38 PM

Complaint that P-Safe “violated their trust with students” during that week after Homecoming Weekend, approached students in a hostile manner.

Zach April 30, 20137:39 PM

Student comment: “It’s one thing to be an authority figure, and it’s another thing to be an authority figure and be someone that students will trust.” [minor applause]

Solomon April 30, 20137:40 PM

Student: Two particular Public Safety officers who I know and with whom I am very comfortable (Simon and Hex [sp?]). Comfortable with nobody else. It is important that when P-Safe officers are hired, their communication skills are properly assessed.

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:41 PM

Student: a lot of things that have been negative have been because neither side knows what Public Safety is supposed to do.

Zach April 30, 20137:41 PM
Zach April 30, 20137:42 PM

A complaint that Public Safety often sends out reports that are “really terrifying” but never actually follows up on them.

Solomon April 30, 20137:43 PM

Margolis: At every school there is a natural tension between campus security and the desire of freedom on the part of college students. Some places the tension is greater. What I want to ask you is: “What needs to be different?”

Zach April 30, 20137:44 PM

“What needs to be different for you to think more highly of Public Safety?” Five hands shoot up.

Zach April 30, 20137:45 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:45 PM

Student: P-Safe policies need to be more transparent.

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:47 PM

Student: There must be something wrong with our officer hiring process.

Solomon April 30, 20137:47 PM

Student: Students feel that rebelling against P-Safe is a rite of passage, which it shouldn’t be.

Zach April 30, 20137:47 PM

Margolis: “We’re working on it! We’ve had the same question!”

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:47 PM

Consultant: We’ve identified that as an issue.

Zach April 30, 20137:48 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:49 PM

Student: One P-Safe officer went around shutting down all these parties that I was going to and the assault outside Beta happened. Where is the organization’s priorities?

Panelist: Things are not that black-and-white. P-Safe still has a responsibility to break up parties. There are still very unsafe things happening at parties where there is at-risk drinking.

Zach April 30, 20137:50 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:50 PM

Panelist (continued): The duties (protecting from assaults and quelling underage drinking) have to co-exist.

Zach April 30, 20137:52 PM

Ooh, a professor is speaking up: “My students in this room, I don’t want any of you partying ever! But as a faculty member, the thing that’s concerning to me is that my black students who party are more afraid of P-Safe than my white students who party. Where the rubber hits the road for me is a strong sense for me that my underage white students have a different experience w/ P-Safe than my underaged black students.”

Margolis: “We agree, 100% It shouldn’t be that at all.”

Professor: “I’m so glad y’all are here, you have no idea.”

Zach April 30, 20137:53 PM
Solomon April 30, 20137:54 PM

Student: “I don’t know how many P-Safe officers are employed here.”

Margolis: “100? 120? No, I’m kidding.”

LAUGHTER.

Margolis (to the liveblogging table): “Sense of humor. Did you get that? Did you get that?”

Solomon April 30, 20137:55 PM

Margolis: “The question is: what are the priorities for this campus?”

Zach April 30, 20137:56 PM

Student ’13: “What can be changed is when Dave Meyer’s replacement comes in, we need someone who’s appoachable, people trust them, and they have personal relationships with students.” Complains that Dave Meyer says things that are just “condescending, inappropriate, sometimes racist.”

lesanjuan April 30, 20137:56 PM

Student: The new Director of Public Safety will be important. Everyone has a negative relationship to the outgoing director. I think it starts from the top.

Solomon April 30, 20137:56 PM

Same Student: P-Safe needs to be generally more approachable.

Zach April 30, 20137:56 PM

Idea: Maybe P-Safe should have office hours once a week; students can come and chat.

Margolis: “So you want an enlightened, professional Public Safety leader to lead the next generation of P-Safe officers….”

Zach April 30, 20137:57 PM
Solomon April 30, 20138:01 PM

Panelist: A lot of places that we go, people in positions of power (such as RAs) usually have a good relationship with the university police department and it is disheartening to see that it is different here.

Zach April 30, 20138:02 PM

Show of hands of who knows at least one P-Safe officer’s name, not counting Dave Meyers. Very small minority raises hands.

Zach April 30, 20138:02 PM
Zach April 30, 20138:03 PM
Zach April 30, 20138:05 PM

Student ’14: “I hope you might evaluate the position of Public Safety within the administration. I think they’re under Finance right now, whereas it seems like it might be more natural to have them under Student Affairs.”

Margolis: “It’s actually about 55% of departments report to Finance and Admin, and about 35% or so report to Student Affairs.”

Well, this is very bureaucratic.

Zach April 30, 20138:06 PM
Zach April 30, 20138:08 PM

Student ’13 suggests a “student/P-Safe summit” at the beginning of next year. “I’d like to think that P-Safe officers do generally want to meet students.”

Zach April 30, 20138:08 PM

According to this guy from the Margolis firm, P-Safe officers did express genuine interest in wanting to get to know students better, want to “engage with students in a positive way.”

Zach April 30, 20138:09 PM
Zach April 30, 20138:10 PM

Breaking: Margolis is now laughing and gesturing at us. He is definitely reading this liveblog.

Zach April 30, 20138:12 PM

Best way to get ahold of this firm: email wesleyan@margolishealy.com.

Zach April 30, 20138:13 PM

Okay, the faculty member who spoke up earlier (who has been quite outspoken about this issue in the past) came over and said Margolis has not checked out of the meeting — he was talking about policy stuff with the faculty member. Let the record state that.

Zach April 30, 20138:14 PM

Private conversation happening at this table:
– “I’m Ben Tweed. I’m the guy with the Twitter account.”
– “Your last name is Tweet??”
– “No. But that would be perfect.”

lesanjuan April 30, 20138:16 PM

D and T are very close phonetically.

Zach April 30, 20138:17 PM

Aforementioned faculty member: “If anyone in this room wants to talk about the logical justification for having race in P-Safe alerts, please contact me. I am happy to talk about this ad nauseam. I do not shy away from conflict, so if you feel uncomfortable with the change in policy, please contact me.”

Okay, I guess we should reveal that this professor is Sarah Mahurin, Prof. of English and African-American Studies. Contact her if you want to chat about this.

Zach April 30, 20138:18 PM
Zach April 30, 20138:19 PM

Lucas is now showing all of the different browsers he has going on to Prof. Mahurin, including the group chat with me, a separate chat with Ben, a Twitter feed, and this liveblog.

Zach April 30, 20138:19 PM
lesanjuan April 30, 20138:20 PM

Not to get off topic, but there’s a reason 17″ laptops are far superior for work.

Zach April 30, 20138:20 PM

Margolis: “I went and checked, and word-for-word, they were blogging!” This is getting way too meta. The forum has just ended. I’m going home. Thanks for reading.

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  • Lex Blacktown

    Why nothing here about the p safety offers fired for videotaping a female student in her room!!?? Where did this occur? What dorm? We have a right to know!

    • Anonymouse

      The only thing that would do is further violate the privacy of the person who was filmed…

  • 2013

    P-Safe is not approachable? Yet a small minority of people knew the name of one P-Safe officer? Maybe you should try approaching P-Safe at times other than when you are getting written up. I’ve made an effort to do so and found the vast majority of officers to be extremely helpful and approachable when I’m not blackout drunk. Does it start from the top with Dave Meyer? Maybe, but it also starts with us as students. You can’t expect each officer to go door-to-door every year and introduce themselves to 3200 students. Take some responsibility.

  • Starr Jonze

    Professor Mahurin is a total badass.

  • marty mcfly

    OH SHIT TWEEDINATOR’S TWEEDING FROM THE FUTURE MAY 1!!!

  • wesbiker

    There should be a campuswide anonymous survey about relations with Psafe. I think that would help advise Margolis Healy infinitely better than a one-hour panel with 30-ish students.

  • sketched out

    couldn’t be there i’m at a rehearsal but can you please tell them david meyer is sketchy – let me register an event last minute under the radar and then psafe never even came to check us out – this isn’t fair seeing how they treat other events – registration for events should be reevaluated

    • lesanjuan

      There was brief discussion about him. Meyer’s on the way out, but there’s no official word on whether he’s retiring or “retiring.” If you’ve got more details about this, consider sending them to the consultants.

  • ’13

    Thanks for liveblogging this; this is really fascinating/important