by Colin McCoy, staff writer
A uniformed police officer accompanied Public Safety for the first two weekends of this semester. New Interim Vice President of Administration Finance, Alan Russell, was responsible for hiring the officer.
“My business is going from university to college as an interim CFO [Chief Financial Officer],” Russell said. “In most colleges, the beginning of the semester, the end of the semester, students all arrive, there’s usually more parties, more ‘let loose’ kind of behavior. So I thought that it might be a good idea to add another security officer.”
Paige Hadler is a readmitted student this semester. She attended Warren Wilson her freshman year, 2011-2012. She transferred to College of Charleston her sophomore year, but has since returned to our community.
“It was weird because I left, and I went to a state school in a public city, where [police presence] was really normal,” Hadler said. “And I didn’t expect to come back to a small school and have cops on campus.”
Hadler recognized the importance of the police force in Charleston.
“At College of Charleston, you’re in the middle of downtown. Random people are walking through campus everyday, so they have very strict protocol,” Hadler said. “I understand why cops are there because they need to protect the students.”
Hadler expressed a different opinion about the police force in the Warren Wilson environment.
“To make a presence known is different than to protect,” Hadler said. “It’s a safer group of people here, and with police it’s not an accountability thing; it’s more of a threat…we can usually talk things out here.”
Russell ensured that his intention in hiring the police officer was not to threaten or intimidate people.
“It adds to the security of the campus,” Russell said. “It has nothing to do with intimidation. They’re not going to do anything our officers wouldn’t do.”
Judging from prior experiences at other colleges, Russell sees the beginning of the academic year as an opportunity for students to engage in risky behavior. Thus, he thought extra support would counter these actions.
“I just wanted to add another presence at a time when I thought it might be useful because of the historical tendency to have more partying, more difficult behavior,” Russell said.
Dean of Students Paul Perrine agreed with Russell’s reasoning.
“Having temporary additional help for our Public Safety officers helps to keep our wonderful community safe,” Perrine said. “As someone who lives and works here, I appreciate that.”
The officer was hired from the county sheriff’s department. Russell ensured that he was off duty, and had authority equivalent to an on-campus public safety officer.
“Anything that happens goes to the Dean of Students, Paul Perrine, and the college judicial system,” Russell said. “They’re not here to arrest people. These are county officers and the county sheriff requires that they be in uniform, they carry their service revolver – all of that the same as if they were on duty. That’s not our requirement, that’s not our request.”
While Russell has evidence from other colleges that partying behavior is more common around the beginning of the academic year, he doesn’t have information regarding past circumstances at Wilson.
“The decision to bring in someone as an extra resource was mine, and no knowledge of prior years situations – it had nothing to do with that,” Russell said. “It’s just a time of year on every campus when there is a lot of activity going on.”
There were no official, school-approved parties the first weekend of school. However, Russell stated that partying didn’t necessarily decrease because of this.
“There’s been quite a few incident reports of underage drinking and smoking pot, so I don’t know that there’s been a decrease of the party spirit,” Russell said.
According to Russell, the cost was fairly inexpensive. Each day, the officer was paid $200, making $800 the total amount spent on the extra presence.
“Here is how I look at it: at certain times of the year, we bring in people to help clean the dorms, we bring in people with certain technical skills,” Russell said. “This is just another example.”