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ACESS advances Grinnell’s self-governance mission

Jamal Poole-Preston, Gabby DeRoche and DJ Coleman, all ’19, work with ACESS in order to provide a safety service to students from their peers at campus-wide events. Photo by Liz Paik.

There is perhaps no clearer example of the importance of self-governance at the College than the existence of All Campus Events Student Safety (ACESS). ACESS is a student-run organization that staffs all parties and concerts at Harris and Gardner to make sure they run smoothly, safely and inclusively.

In recent years, ACESS has grown from a smaller group of students to about 30 employees. This includes two Co-Directors, Gabby DeRoche ’19 and DJ Coleman ’19, as well as Outreach Coordinator Jamal Poole-Preston ’19. All three students started as regular staff, were promoted to chief status and then attained their current administrative positions.

“I definitely would say all three of us act as liaisons between a lot of the administration, the chairs that coordinate the events and the general student body, especially because our staff and chiefs are the student body,” said DeRoche.

Students who work for ACESS undergo extensive training to become employees, including active bystander training, Title IX training, Clery Act training, de-escalation training and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training for suicide and self-harm prevention. From there, ACESS staff carry out several responsibilities.

“They deal with people who are intoxicated or under the influence and guests who need to come into parties so there can be community members or people’s friends. They also deal with people who are unruly and doing disrespectful things, acting biased or whatnot.” said Coleman.

Outreach Coordinator Poole-Preston emphasized the significance of ACESS presence at events.

“Our staff is kind of like that mediation point, because things happen at events. The moment that the first inclination is to go and call campus security, it can escalate drastically… It’s all about communicating and making sure that we are able to handle a situation as quickly and efficiently as we can,” he said.

ACESS was specifically created to be a peacekeeping body at student events, not as a disciplinary presence, though sometimes students who ACESS aims to help misunderstand the intentions of the student staff.

“I feel like a lot of students, when they get intoxicated or under the influence, forget that we’re also students and some of us have definitely been in the same situations. If they have security guards come in, they’re 30, 40-something year-olds, and they don’t have very much experience on this specific campus. I do feel like Grinnell [College]’s campus is very unique, especially when it comes to a lot of situations involving different biases, so being able to understand and actually place yourself in the situation is very important,” DeRoche said.

Additionally, Poole-Preston described ACESS’ contribution to the culture of self-governance at the College.

“Having a student-led security force is important so that we can maintain the semblance of self-gov and maintain a community where the people that are supposed to be protecting you are also your classmates and friends. There’s a level of empathy and understanding that you just wouldn’t get in other situations,” he said.

As a work study position for students, ACESS is always hiring and in need of student workers. Raven McClendon ’22 started her staff position last semester and praised the job for its flexible hours, the valuable qualifications with which it supplies students and the unique work environment. She also highlighted her and her coworkers’ commitment to the safety of their peers rather than any motivation to carry out disciplinary action.

“I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble, I don’t think anyone on ACESS is. We’re just trying to look out for you, making sure y’all have a grand old time but a safe old time as well,” McClendon said.

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