Sexual Assault and Violence Elimination executive board writes letter to administration discussing new, harmful third-party security

An Open Letter to the Franklin and Marshall College Administration was written by the entirety of The Sexual Assault and Violence Elimination Executive Board.If you have any specific questions or comments regarding the content of this letter, please email Junior Emma Kapner at ekapner@fandm.edu or Senior Lauren Peeters at lpeeters@fandm.edu.

An Open Letter to the Franklin and Marshall College Administration:

To Whom It May Concern,

Earlier this week, Sexual Assault and Violence Elimination (SAVE) hosted an open meeting to discuss newly–instated policies regarding social life at F&M, specifically the mandate that fraternities sponsor third–party security at certain parties. As a result of the discussion at Monday’s meeting, SAVE’s executive board feels that it is necessary to address the concerns raised by our members and a plethora of F&M students. While we understand that these policies were instituted to keep Franklin and Marshall students safe, in reality these new rules have had the opposite effect.

Although third–party security officers were brought in to make fraternity parties safer, they have proven themselves to be a direct threat to the safety and comfort of F&M students—particularly female students. Our executive board was stunned by multiple accounts of these security officers—–all of which are men—inappropriately grabbing and ogling female partygoers. Some examples include blatantly leering at women’s breasts, pushing, shoving and dragging female students out of parties, swearing at students, and publicly berating a young woman on West James Street until she was in tears. Moreover, a student recounted a situation wherein a male security officer followed her and a friend into a separate room they had gone to for privacy and watched as she adjusted her friend’s blouse. Another member of our organization overheard two security officers mocking an obviously intoxicated woman as she left a party with a female friend. These officers did not ask the student in question if she required medical attention or an escort to make sure she got home safely. Due to these behaviors, it seems clear to us that the role of these officers is not to keep students safe, but rather to ensure that underage women do not have access to Natural Lite Beer.

Instead of making fraternity parties safer for all in attendance, these officers are creating additional barriers for students to have fun without putting themselves in danger. As SAVE is a group comprised of primarily female students, we fear that the rising tensions between fraternities and the administration—represented by the issue of third–party security—put us at a much greater risk than ever before. Fraternities on our campus have proven time and again that they are willing to call for help when guests at their parties have had too much to drink, feel sick, or get injured. However, with these stricter and stricter sanctions against Greek–hosted social events, fraternities have more to lose than ever for reporting incidents to the Department of Public Safety.

Another unintended consequence of this policy is increased instances of “pre-gaming,” or students drinking unsupervised in their rooms before going out. The College Reporter’s “Crime Watch” November 6th edition reported ten alcohol–related incidents in the past week alone. Multiple freshman at the forum recounted stories of themselves or their peers drinking so heavily before going out that they blacked out or were ill. When underage students know that they will not have any access to beer while at parties, they are more likely to consume an excess of hard liquor by themselves. This activity is much more dangerous, because hard liquor can have an alcohol content of anywhere from 20% to upwards of 80%. On the other hand, Natural Light Beer has an alcohol content of only 4.2%.

Furthermore, the lack of accountability for these outside security officers is reprehensible. Unlike Public Safety officers, they are not required to wear name tags or identify themselves or the company they work for in any way. As a result, many students do not how to report the inappropriate behaviors they have witnessed and experienced. This creates a toxic atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. These officers have no connection to F&M or its students, and have therefore felt completely comfortable blatantly mistreating us. One possible solution our organization has considered is replacing third–party security officers with Public Safety officers. We feel that Public Safety officers are a much better option because they are an integral part of the Franklin and Marshall community and have taken strides to establish positive relationships with students on our campus. However, even with Public Safety as an alternative form of security, we feel that it is more appropriate for any kind of security officers to regulate students from outside of fraternity parties as opposed to on the dancefloor. The presence of security guards inside social gatherings is invasive and uncomfortable, especially given the pattern of mistreatment and abuse F&M students are reportedly experiencing.

It is highly unlikely—and perhaps impossible—to prevent underage drinking on college campuses, and the current policies at F&M are not conducive to safe drinking practices. The number of hospitalizations has spiked as a direct consequence of these untenable policies. We are extremely concerned that this situation will only get worse, and that the eventual consequences will be even more severe. Our board would love to meet with you at your earliest possible convenience, so that we can sit down and discuss all of our concerns and work towards solutions that truly ensure the safety of all Franklin and Marshall students.

Sincerely,

The Sexual Assault and Violence Elimination Executive Board

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