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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

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  • C

    Clay ParksMay 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    As a member of the class of ’84, I felt obliged to comment on some of the statements here. John, regardless of whether activities in your house are legal or illegal, the police are prohibited by law from entering “at will”. They are required to have a search warrant based on probable cause which is issued by a judge to enter your home.
    Back in the dinosaur days at Grinnell, police actions such as this would rightly be labelled “Gestapo”, and the student body would have held protests and demonstrations, the administration would be forced to hold public meetings about the problem, the patrols would be harassed. and most likely the police patrols would stop.
    In regards to “rights”, I think shelling out 30K a year entitles a person to at least the same contitutional rights all Americans are endowed with. Why do the police even have keys to the dorms? Do they a key to your front door at home? The police have no right to patrol the private property of the campus unless given permission by the administration. Again, the administration’s actions and attitudes can be changed by student action. Any arrests could be met with harassment by students to a degree that a riot squad would be needed. Any spying devices-well Grinnell has plenty of technically oriented students. “Plants”, informers, or finks should be ostracized, identified to all students, and peacefully but vocally confronted by liberty loving students at all opportunities.
    Lil Bo, Grinnell is not the same as “all campuses” and never has been. Most of your rambling just isn’t worth reading. John, your paragraph has inaccuricies and generalizations. Perhaps students such as yourselves should read up on student actions regarding Vietnam and Aparthied. The administration, and even the trustees can be “persuaded” to change their attitudes. As Jim Morrison said, “They got the guns; we got the numbers.” (For younger students and alums who think rock n roll began with The Hansens, Jim Morrison was the singer for “The Doors”, a popular rock band in the late 60’s into the 80’s. Although officially declared dead, many believe he is still alive in Africa)
    In the end, it is up to the students themselves to end this victimizing of the students. Hats off to the signatories, but more students need to stand up and not be afraid to show their faces and opinions, especially on prospective student touring days and parent visitation days. The biggest problem seems to be with apathetic students who won’t stand up and be counted.

  • J

    JohnApr 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Actually, Lil B is right. Grinnell students are not excused from federal and state laws by virtue of being at Grinnell or on a college campus. The “dorm” argument is also completely ridiculous. It is illegal to do illegal things in a dorm, just as it is illegal to do illegal things in a house. If you are doing illegal things in either a dorm or a house, the police can enter at their own will. For more info, check out the answers these 2 morons got from doing a police ride around in Grinnell last year:

  • R

    Recent gradApr 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Where to start with Lil B’s fatuous commentary?

    For starters, the Lil one attributes sentiments to the 47 letter signatories, who had the fortitude to use their actual names, that do not appear in their letter.

    Then she (or he) states other campuses have to deal with a constant police presence. Anyone who has spent much time on other college campuses knows this is utter nonsense. Lil B’s understanding of the real world apparently is very little indeed.

    Then Lil B suggests students work to change county or municipal laws in this area which shows a stunning misunderstanding of our legal system.

    Finally this “Based God” argues the letter signatories are whining rather than doing something productive. Seems to me a letter to the college newspaper and Administration that seeks to identify and challenge a heavy-handed police presence on the campus is exactly the sort of thoughtful action from citizens of the community that we need. Of course, criticizing a letter or any sort of any protest regarding existing policies as “whining” is a tactic we also saw leveled at protestors in the 1960s and again with the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations last year. Congratulations to the signatories for being willing to speak up publicly and doing something more “productive” than scribbling snarky and smug anonymous letters.

  • L

    Laura SinaiApr 20, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Lil B, I do not read in the article that the students are asking to live in a “law-free bubble”; they are asking that the current administration COMMUNICATE with them regarding what is going on with the police, campus security, and the students. Grinnell students DO have a right to be informed about decisions that are made that regard their welfare.

  • L

    Lil B the Based GodApr 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Unfortunately, the arguments presented in this letter fail to account for the reality of the situation. Many students “feel that the police have no right” to patrol the campus? We are “entitled” to live free of police “harassment?” Sorry, but we have zero right to either of those things. The fact that Grinnell has developed as a sort of law-free bubble in the past does not make it exempt from laws now. The arguments presented here make it appear as though we as a student body are completely ignorant of how the real world actually works. Other college campuses have to deal with constant police presence; the students simply adjust their activities accordingly. Self-gov is a loophole that somehow was able to justify enormous amounts of illegal activity on campus with no intervention from authority. Like it or not, the new administration is attempting to close that loophole, and makes no effort to hide their intentions.

    If we want to lessen the arrests, we need to either comply with the laws or try to change them. There is currently legislation being considered in many states across the country to decriminalize marijuana. While changing state law may be a bit extensive, perhaps we can campaign to change municipal or county laws? It’d be really nice to see some Grinnellians actually doing something productive for once instead of just whining and complaining publicly until someone else acts for us.