By Cassy Sottile
In the Student Government Association Senate session on Oct. 29, students complaints came forward centering around security measures conducted by the Department of Public Safety and event staff at Shoremal, which took place on Oct. 26.
The concerns were voiced by Student Events Board President junior Colin Levi.
Director of the Department of Public Safety Brandon McFayden was first informed of the issue by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm.
“It was reported to me that Colin Levi made a statement at the SGA meeting saying that Public Safety officers had performed aggressive pat downs and possibly singled out male students of color,” McFayden said.
According to McFayden, it was also reported that someone told them that Public Safety would be monitoring and checking to see that students used gender appropriate bathrooms during the event.
In the aftermath of the Shoremal security accusations, McFayden reached out to Levi to “gather any firsthand information from him or other students who might have relayed information to him about negative interactions with Public Safety at the event.”
The Elm reached out to Levi for comment, but received no reply.
The practice of conducting pat downs at bigger campus events such as Shoremal began approximately five years ago. The primary purpose for necessity of patting down students is the safety of all in attendance.
In addition to checking for weapons, McFayden and officers ensure that students are not violating college policy and bringing alcohol into the event.
According to McFayden, Public Safety did not have officers assigned to monitor or check the bathrooms to ensure students were using “correct” bathrooms.
“There was never any order or instructions from me or any other supervisor for Public Safety staff to police the restrooms for any type of gender compliance,” McFayden said. “Our officers will periodically check restrooms during an event like this as part of a general safety check.”
With larger events, intoxicated students end up in the restrooms and require medical treatment in some instances, as has been discovered at past events. Any checking of the bathrooms at events has been conducted to ensure the safety and well-being of the students, according to McFayden.
At the 2019 Shoremal, around 12 students were caught trying to smuggle alcohol into the dance.
For larger campus events, the College hires event staff to fill positions.
To create a unified approach to security for these larger events, Feyerherm wants to make a checklist for events that is sent to WC and external staff that outlines safety measures at the event.
“For events of certain sizes, there should be a clearly marked gender neutral bathrooms to allow students to autonomously choose which restroom to use,” Feyerherm said.
At the Shoremal entrance, only two event staff personnel were conducting the pat downs, resulting in the formation of long lines to enter the dance.
“To address the report that event staff singled out males of color in some way at security, the sergeant in charge and both officers who were conducting the searches are all African American,” McFayden said.
The two event staff members are current or former members of the Kent County Detention Center, and have had extensive training in how to conduct pat downs.
In the Senate meeting, complainants suggested that public safety officers receive proper bias training.
A few months ago, McFayden and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Candace Wannamaker discussed the possibility of bias training for the department.
“Every year, we seek to provide meaningful training for our officers to help them be better prepared to perform their duties,” McFayden said.
Dr. Wannamaker approached Director of Intercultural Affairs Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina to help secure some type of diversity or bias training for the staff. Due to Laurenceau-Medina’s extended leave of absence this semester, this training has not occurred yet.
McFayden and Wannamaker are currently working on identifying some appropriate training for the Public Safety staff in the near future.
“I believe the more training we can provide for our personnel, the better we are able to support and protect our campus community,” McFayden said. “We are committed to an inclusive and equitable environment for our students, so if anyone has concerns regarding interactions with officers of this nature, please contact me directly.”