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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Student Safety braces for Beyoncé Gardner, reflects on the consequences of racial disparity in campus employment

ACESS, predominantly staffed by students of color, work to keep students safe at campus-wide events. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

Beyoncé Gardner is back this Friday in Gardner Lounge. The party, hosted by Concerned Black Students (CBS), is a part of a years-long tradition of Beyoncé-themed parties. The first Beyoncé parties were thrown in a lounge and grew in popularity until Gardner was chosen as the new venue. In 2015, the party was moved to Harris, partially due to the large draw of the party. However, the party was moved back to Gardner in 2016, because of the preferred atmosphere. There was also a new, brighter stage lighting system for Gardner.

Beyoncé is the most popular Gardner party of the year. However, not everyone gets to attend Beyoncé Gardner as a partygoer. Every registered party in Grinnell requires All Campus Events Student Safety (ACESS) presence. Harris parties require a minimum of 12 ACESS workers, and Gardner parties need at least six, although between 10 and 12 workers are staffed for popular parties like Beyoncé. If a party is not staffed by a sufficient number of ACE Student Saftey workers, the party will be cancelled. Beyoncé Gardner is a particularly hard party to staff; many ACESS workers are members of CBS, and would prefer to attend the party that their organization throws.

This difficulty in staffing parties highlights a larger phenomenon: nearly all of ACESS workers are people of color. According to ACESS Outreach Coordinator Alfredo Colina ’17, this contributes to the strange atmosphere of “people of color taking care of drunk white people.” Another negative outcome of this for the ACESS team, Colina continued, is the potential for bias-motivated incidents towards ACESS workers. SGA VPSA Kahlil Epps ’18 points out another issue: “When there are parties that minorities want to go to … the people who work for ACESS want to go to those parties because they don’t happen all the time.”

ACE co-chairs Selah Mystic ’19 and Claudia Handal ’18 agree that Beyoncé is incredibly popular for two reasons: One is the broad popular appeal of Beyoncé. The other is that CBS-hosted Beyoncé Gardner, like other parties thrown by Multicultural Leadership Council groups, are more inclusive to other members of MLC-affiliated groups, many of whom identify as people of color. Mystic says ACE is trying to encourage more people of color to host parties. However, “If this one subset of people are predominantly working ACESS,” Mystic asked, “how are we supposed to do that?”

To put it another way, most parties at a predominantly white college are going to be understood as white parties. This is alienating to many people of color on campus. For some, working ACESS can be a way to go out on the weekend on a campus that does not always provide inclusive programming. Instead of attending a party that does not feel welcoming, some ACESS employees prefer to work the party.

The ACESS outreach coordinator position was created this year to help address these issues. The outreach program is working to destigmatize ACESS’ role at on campus events, as well as to recruit more white students. “If there was the same amount of diversity in ACESS as there is in the college, there would never have been an issue of staffing any party,” Mystic said. She stressed that diversifying the racial makeup of ACESS is key to making sure that all “communities can enjoy the freedoms that other kinds of people enjoy.” As the situation stands, the freedom to socialize on weekends is compromised for many students of color.

“ACESS isn’t going to get you into trouble,” Handal said. “[They are there to] make sure that self-gov is being upheld, that students are being safe, that there are sober people there watching” to help people who are too drunk, or to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. While the alternative to student-run Student Safety is not explicitly stated, it would most likely entail at least a heightened presence of Campus Safety.

Colina explains that he heard about the job “from a friend of a friend.” He also said that the ACESS directors being people of color was an encouragement to join the team. Instead of relying on word of mouth, new recruitment strategies include tabling outside of the Dining Hall. Colina says that this effort has been somewhat successful, especially with first-years. There are many appealing aspects of the ACESS jobs. ACESS offers flexible hours, a laidback work environment and an opportunity to participate in social nightlife without feeling a need to drink.

Last year, Beyoncé Gardner was almost cancelled due to a lack of ACESS workers. However, the party went on, thanks to sacrifices made by leaders and members of CBS. Whether they know it or not, Grinnellians rely on ACESS for crucial campus events. Peers take a stand for self-governance in campus social life. It is a hope that students show some appreciation for fellow students who take the time and energy ensure student safety and work so others can party.

ACESS, predominantly staffed by students of color, work to keep students safe at campus-wide events. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.
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