At the beginning of the semester, the Campus Times reported that UR Security had confiscated bicycles from racks across campus. Bikes left unlocked were taken clear across campus to Towne House, which can take a long time for a busy college student to get to, especially once one’s bike has been taken. Security’s explanation? They had an obligation to take the bikes for “safekeeping.”
Security’s bicycle policy is indefensible both on its face and in its implementation. Security left no notice with the bike owners, and gave no general notice to students about this new policy. Together, these omissions created a high risk to the students of permanent loss of their personal property. Even if students were to discover it was security that had taken their bicycles, they might not be able to recover them, as security somehow expected cyclists to produce matching paperwork.
Students ought to be soundly outraged at security’s bicycle policy ? but they ought not be surprised. Security regularly creates policies that have the material effect of depriving students of their property rights. The bike fiasco is only the most recent example.
For instance, if you are caught with an unregistered keg on campus, security will confiscate it and refuse to return it to students or rental companies so that students can get their deposits back. Security takes hard alcohol from students who are over 21. And if you have a hookah or other ceremonial smoking device on campus, security will take that. Yet, inexplicably, if they find no evidence of illegal substances, they will allow its return. Security has entered fraternity houses without notice or permission, and has searched dorm rooms or their fridges without permission of the occupant. The CT reported in its last issue that parking lots, which one might expect security to identify as a high-risk area, are not patrolled on weekends or after midnight.
This is university security gone beserk. Security offers no justification for their policies when questioned, probably because there is no consistent and logical justification.
They don’t even provide copies of the policies themselves ? assuming they exist in written form ? when asked twice to produce such materials last semester by the College’s Judicial Policies and Procedures Committee, security failed to comply. No official statement on room entry is issued to students, presumably because none exists.
The problem here is not with security officers, but with Security’s directors and their lack of sound policies. Such policies must be revised, written down and given to students so that they have notice of how they can expect to be treated.
The university needs to immediately create a special committee to conduct a complete review of security on the River Campus. Security should be prohibited from taking student property. Officers should be assigned to regular beats in order to build rapport with students and learn what activities are typical and atypical in a given area, and should be required to continually monitor high-risk nighttime areas, like parking lots and the footbridge. To provide accountability and oversight, River Campus Security should be required to report to the Office of the Dean of Students.
Security exists to keep university staff and students safe. Their current policies and approach do not engender trust in their ability to do so. Security must be reformed so that the university treats students more like adults, as the Dean of The College has suggested, rather than like kids who need to have their parents pick up their toys.
Ryan Walters is an alumnus, and former Chief Justice of the All-Campus Judicial Council.
Walters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.