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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Sergeant Wray, can you guest meal me in?

The Division of Student Affairs has taken a number of steps to ameliorate tension between Grinnell College students and the Grinnell Police Department. Recently, the presence of municipal police in uniform lunching in the dining hall—marked by squad cars parked on 6th Ave. outside the Joe Rosenfield Center—has cultivated interest and raised a few eyebrows throughout the study body.

Student Affairs invited the police to dine in the Marketplace, requiring sign-ins for admittance, with the hope of fostering greater communication between the student body and the police department.

The Campus Safety and Security staff, whose budget covers the cost of police meals, receive the log of police officers that come to the Dining Hall. At least one member of College Security has posed expectations for students to take advantage of casual conversation opportunities with the police during random breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

“I expect nothing to come of it if you don’t go talk them,” said Russ Motta, Assistant Director of Security. “Police are sitting there giving students the opportunity to communicate, and if students aren’t willing to go over there and say, ‘Hey, how you doin? My name is Joe. Tell me about you,’ nothing is going to happen.”

Officer Motta urged members of the community to take the first step to open a vital medium of communication. Students and officers have had many notable contacts as of late, and the community has the potential to benefit from talks between students and members of the Grinnell Police Department.

The town’s police force has been dining at the College’s expense for a few years now, to the surprise of the staff members in the Marketplace, who were initially taken aback by the extended invitation.

“It’s my understanding that they were to come for a month during ‘Public Safety Month,’” said Lyle Bauman, Marketplace Supervisor. “I don’t know how long they have been coming, but I know it’s been more than a month.”

Bauman did not express any resentment towards the police department but rather, his unawareness about the police presence reflects that of the College community. Many students do not know why the police are in the dining hall, and they are curious.

“If the police are coming here instead going to Arby’s, then I’m not sure we have a right to say ‘no’ they can’t come here,” said Eric Ritter ’12. “It was my understanding that it was nothing more than that, but if they’re getting paid by security to watch us at lunch, that’s different.”

But some police officers have already begun discussions with a number of students from different backgrounds.

“Any student that wants to talk to us is welcome to, and fortunately we’ve had quite a few students come up and talk to us,” said Sergeant Chris Wray. “They’ll come and ask us questions … and it’s kind of interesting to talk with students from other states and from other countries.”

Sergeant Wray had nothing negative to say about his interactions with Grinnell College students at the dining hall, and even praised a “Self-gov is love” t-shirt sold at a table outside the Dining Hall.

“It’s always neat for me to see what some of the organizations are up to in the Joe Rosenfield Center,” Wray said. “I especially liked some of the shirts, like the self-governance shirts that [were] for sale for 10 bucks. There were a couple other fundraisers that were also pretty cool, too.”

The topic of self-governance may be a good starting point for students willing to initiate contact with the police officers, who claim they have sat everywhere in the Dining Hall except the second floor and the picnic tables outside. It may be the case that there are simply too many students at the dining hall at one time for the police to pick one student out to begin a conversation.

Even if the students stop chatting up the visitors in blue, officers will have plenty on their plates aside from small talk, namely delicious food from the “all-you-care-to-eat” marketplace dining operation.

Sergeant Wray used one word to describe the food, “excellent.”

“Anyone who goes away hungry from the Dining Hall—it’s their own fault,” Sargeant Wray said. “Dining Services does an excellent job.”

To hint at the times when students might expect to find a few police in the Marketplace for a guest meal, Sergeant Wray praised some of his favorite menu items.

“To me the best options are the pasta made-to-order station, and in the mornings, the made-to-order omelets are just fantastic,” Sargeant Wray said.

The great thing is that the Dining Hall almost always offers one of the two items Wray mentioned, and the line for those items is often long enough for students to introduce themselves while waiting to order.

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