Letter: Police, interrupted

To Whom It May Concern:

Over the past year at Grinnell we have noticed an unprecedented amount of arrests and police activity on campus.

The increasingly visible presence of the police on campus is disconcerting to many of us. In the last few months, many of our friends and classmates have witnessed members of our student body being targeted, arrested, or suspended.

The sense that we are living under constant surveillance is oppressive and it affects all of us. Students who do not drink alcohol or engage in illicit activities have told us that they feel threatened by the frequent police presence on campus.

Campus security claims that “proactive, preventive approaches” and “transparency and accessibility” are among its core values. If this is truly the case, we as students feel that there needs to be far better communication between security, the police department, and the student body.

Many students feel that the police have no right to be patrolling our living environment, specifically the dorms. The dorms are our home. It should be understandable to anyone that we are angry with police entering the space where we live. Students, like other citizens, are entitled to a degree of privacy and protection from unreasonable harassment.

It is imperative that we be informed as to why the police are in the dorms and when they will be in the dorms if the goal is to make the students feel safe and secure. The dorms at Grinnell are not areas subject to high-crime or violence and the recent police activity seems hugely disproportionate to any particular threat. 

Judging by recent events, Grinnell’s policies in relation to drug and alcohol use and self-governance appear to be undergoing many changes. The current policies on drug and alcohol use seem ambiguous. The policy explains that the College prohibits the use of illegal drugs and underage drinking, but then goes on to emphasize the role of self-governance in regards to these matters. Police action is not addressed in the policy. Many Grinnell students are increasingly concerned as to where the boundary is between campus security’s authority and police action.

Furthermore, we feel that self-governance is one of Grinnell’s most important principles. Police presence makes it impossible for students to engage in self-governance and only serves to drive activities that may be problematic even deeper underground. If the College does want the police to be the primary agent in handling drug and alcohol related issues, the College has an obligation to clearly articulate that policy to the students.

The entire student body holds self-governance as a core value, and we feel it is now under grave threat.

Recent events strongly suggest that the College is currently enabling police activity on campus that is both excessive and unreasonable. We hope that the College will take action to improve communication with the student body, clarify current policies, and protect self-governance. We thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns.

—Concerned Students for a Just Society
Hannah Margolies ’14, Amelia Wallace ’14, Caitlin Beling ’12, Sapir Blau ’14, Braden Brown ’14, Ben Burt ’13, Vilma Castaneda ’14, Lindsay Challis ’12, Joel Coats ’12, Allis Conely ’14, Nick Conway ’14, Anne Damtoft ’13, Ashraya Dixt ’14, John Dreier ’13, Laura Dripps ’14, Colin Fry ’14, Max Fulgoni ’12, Javon Garcia ’14, Erica Hauswald ’12, Joe Hiller ’12, Jarrett Joubert ’12, Hannah Kapp-Klote ’13, Elliot Karl ’12, Clara Kirkpatrick ’14, Rebecca Kulik ’14, Amy Linder ’14, Lucy Mcgowan ’15, Jessica Mcmillen ’14, Emily Mester ’14, Taylor Nys ’13, Natlaie Pace ’14, Victor Pinheiro ’13, Violeta Ruiz ’15, Sara Sanders ’14, Zoe Schein ’12, Claire Schumacher ’14, Logan Shearer ’14, Rachel Smith ’12, Hannah Southern ’14.5, Laura Stamm ’12, Emily Stanfield ’12, Kim Steele ’13, Abby Stevens ’14, Amanda Stromquist ’12, Sarah Swearer ’13, Carly Wakshlag ’15, Sylvie Warfield ’14