By Ruby Van Dyk || Layout Assistant
On Tuesday, April 10th, a forum on campus security & safety was held in the Weis Great Room. The event was sponsored by the Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, and the Office of the Dean of the College. The open conversation was held to discuss issues regarding third-party security that have emerged over the course of the last few weeks, including the firing of M-Protective, the third party security company the college had been using to regulate fraternity parties in the past two semesters.
Some of the administrators present at the forum included Dean Hazlett (the Dean of the College), Barry Bosley (the Associate Vice President for Administration), Dean Flores Mills (the Senior Associate Dean of the College), Stuart Umberger (the Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life), and both the President of Panhellenic Council, Emily Neckes and the President of the Interfraternity Council, Davin Eugenio. The forum drew a large amount of students, both Greek affiliated and non-affiliated. Students were packed in tightly to the room and some even overflowed into the hallways, eager to discuss the issues at hand.
Dean Hazlett began the forum by addressing the concept of third-party security in general, separate from the specific issues at hand with M-Protective. According to Dean Hazlett and the College, the college policy states that at locations where College funds are used (which includes campus housing and fraternity houses) all events must be BYOB (Bring-Your-Own-Beverage) and the use of third party security has begun to make sure these rules are being enforced at fraternity parties in particular. Dean Hazlett stated that this not unique to Franklin & Marshall but is rather part of a national push, which includes national fraternity organizations starting to require their chapters to use third party security.
As a result of an increased desire to enforce these BYOB policies, the college started to require third party security for a certain amount of fraternity events a month beginning in the Fall of 2016 and continued the requirement Spring of 2017. Then, according to Hazlett, it seemed to be working fine. They were only requiring organizations to use third party security about once a month and issues were minimal.
However, in March 2017 a pledge at the Penn State state chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity pledge died from excessive drinking. Many of his brothers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and other criminal offenses. This, according to Dean Hazlett, led to more pressure to amplify the use of third-party security at social events. When the policy developed into something more rigid, Hazlett says the administration contacted Max Olsan, the then-president of Interfraternity Council, to inform him of the shift, but failed to contact the Greek community as a whole, which she now apologizes for. According to Dean Hazlett, the point of third-party security is to be able to manage large groups of people, which the administration feels brothers are unable to do in an effective and safe manner.
At this point in the forum Dean Hazlett began to directly address the concerns about M Protective. She stated that prior to the company being hired to manage parties, it had been employed through the college for many events unrelated to Greek life including athletic and other social events. They progressively became more involved with Greek life because the college believed they’d be a good fit. Following the regulation of fraternity parties accusations were raised by multiple female students who claimed they had been harassed and abused by some of the security guards at fraternity events. According to Dean Hazlett, the administration investigated these claims, but no strict action was taken. Then last week an opinion piece was published in The College Reporter that exposed M-Protective for posting racist, homophobic and sexist content on their company social media pages. At this point the College deemed it necessary to sever ties with M-Protective. Barry Bosley, Associate Vice President for Administration added that the college is now seeking a new security firm that student will have the chance to meet with before they are hired.
The forum was then opened up to a discussion period where students were able to make comments and ask questions. Students criticized the administrators for not taking action against M-Protective when their own students had accused them of harassment, but only when the offensive views of the security group were revealed. To this, Dean Flores Mills responded that they had facilitated an open dialogue with the women who has been subject to the harassment, but the information had been unclear. To this, Jessica Rile ‘19, a member of a sorority organization, replied that accusations of harassment from their own students should have been enough for the college to take further action even if there was a lack of concrete evidence.
Students also questioned the administrators about their lack of transparency in dealing with these issues. One student asked about the lack of communication between administrators and the non-greek affiliated portion of the student body, and how this could be improved. Other students stated that they felt as though the college was much more invested in safe legal practice and a safe reputation than the current physical safety of its students. Dean Hazlett responded that the safety of students is the administration›s top priority, and claimed that when instituting these policies “what drives [her] is the safety and futures of students.” Other students were concerned about the future of social events for the rest of the semester, particularly seniors who only have three weeks left of their final semester at F&M.
Sam Kay, President of Phi Kappa Tau, discussed the difficulties in working with third-party security and argued that the administration, presidents of Greek organizations, and the new security company should all sit down and “make a plan.” The administration listened to all the comments from students and responded respectfully. They appear to be working on developing concrete solutions on how to address the bigger problems of transparency and safety as a whole. The high attendance of the forum and high volume of student comments proved that the student body is very upset and concerned about this situation for a multitude of reasons. School policies and student opinion is likely to change and shift over time in response to forums like this one.
First-year Ruby Van Dyk is a layout assistant. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.