Safety and Security Crack Down on College Parties
College first-year Joshua Chapman had his first encounter with Oberlin Safety and Security at an unauthorized party at a college-owned house on Union Street. About ten minutes after his arrival, Safety and Security officers arrived at the scene. The officers spoke to the hosts of the party and then forced all the occupants of the house to leave, scanning their ID cards as they left the door.
Chapman’s experience is an example of Oberlin College Safety and Security’s new practice of scanning students’ ID cards if they are found at unauthorized parties or gatherings in order to enforce disciplinary policy more effectively.
According to Safety and Security Assistant Director Marjorie Burton, students at unauthorized parties have their IDs scanned and are given a piece of paper explaining the offense, how to contest the charge and the probable disciplinary action based on the number of previous offenses the student has.
Dean of Students Linda Gates stressed that this is not a new policy but rather a better method of enforcing existing policy.
Gates said: “This is not a change in ResEd policy. We have always had the policy of taking students’ T-numbers. The scanners simply make it more efficient and more equitable for students, and it increases accuracy in our reports.
Burton also made it clear that fairness was a primary goal of the scanners, but she added that their use of ID scanners could mean more students being disciplined.
She said, “[The scanners] may result in more students getting their first warning, but it’s fair. Students used to say, ‘I was stopped and asked for my ID and people I was with just faded off into the background. I’m here because I did what the officer said.’”
Burton added that individual offenses such as underage drinking or reckless behavior are noted by security officers and taken into account when deciding what disciplinary action should be taken. She also said that student hosts who call Safety and Security for help with a party that has gotten out of control would have these circumstances taken into account during disciplinary proceedings.
Joshua Chapman’s experience, however, did not progress quite as fluidly as Gates and Burton may have wished. Chapman was forced to wait in line for some time before having his ID scanned. Also, he was not given the explanation of his offense and the possible penalties. At the time of the interview, he was unaware if any disciplinary action was to take place.
Chapman described the policy as “ineffective” because “if anything, it’s going to encourage people to go to parties because they get their card swiped, but nothing happens whether you’re drinking or not drinking or anything else so there’s not going to be any worry about doing anything illegal at the parties because it doesn’t matter if they do.”
He also had doubts about the equitability of using scanners, saying, “I don’t think it’s fair. The thing that frustrates me is that I just showed up to a party, I didn’t do anything. Nobody explained at freshman orientation that parties had to be authorized, so when I went there I had no idea that I was doing anything wrong, but I got my card swiped just like everybody else.”
Another student, an RA in a freshman dorm who wished to remain anonymous, was concerned that scanning IDs may endanger students.
The RA said, “I am not completely against scanning IDs, but one of the concerns when I talked to other RAs was that students who know that they are going to have their ID swiped are more likely to do things that may be dangerous such as exiting a house in a dangerous way, or hiding somewhere they shouldn’t.”
The discrepancy between administration and student perceptions of the ID swiping strategy highlights a lack of communication among students, ResEd and Safety and Security. Although administration officials stress that this is the same policy that has been in place in years past, students see it as a crackdown on student gatherings.
An easy way for students to avoid trouble at their parties is to register gatherings with ResEd according to official party regulations. Information on how to do this can be found at the Residential Education and Dining Services website.
Though the scanners might prove effective in reducing the number of unauthorized parties on campus, the administration fights an uphill battle, as shown by Chapman’s resistant attitude.
He said, “I will totally still continue to go to parties and risk having my card swiped.”