Lately, it’s as though students are often questioning how much the administration is on our side. The new Public Safety certifications, i.e. the ability to perform arrests under Maryland State Law, caused many students to speak out against the administration and their methods of disclosure. It seems that a new divide has been created between the students and the administration that is quickly growing out of control.
In our workings with the administration at St. Mary’s, I have often felt as if there is definitely a true, sincere effort on the part of the administration to listen to the students and make sure that they have a say on what is happening on campus.
Take the Chick-fil-A argument, for example. From the beginning, the administration listened to the voices of the students who protested against the vendor being on campus. Forums were held, SGA amendments were made and the voices of the students were heard.
As a campus, St. Mary’s is generally a place where students can be found having heated debates about issues that concern them, something that generally occurs in a place where you are taught to educate yourself on the issues; however, what I think often happens here is not that the administration does not listen to the students, but that the issues are sensationalized via a game of never-ending telephone.
One person hears or reads something, tells their friend who then tells their friend something different and so on so forth. Next thing you know the facts have morphed so no one knows what the truth was to begin. Sometimes we build issues up to make them seem much more controversial than they are in reality. No one means to do this but it is generally what happens on a campus this small.
In the Orientation Issue of The Point News, we published the Public Safety story inside the paper as opposed to on the front page, an action that some saw as irresponsible on our part. When we read the story we were intrigued by the content but we did not find it controversial enough to add it to our front page.
Perhaps we would not have placed it where it ended up if the hurricane had not hit, but in general the consensus was the story was less important than others. This was a call of judgment, not an attempt to bury a controversial story. We never anticipated what we would hear on campus that Friday when the paper was distributed across campus.
It was not until several days later that anyone on the staff realized what was being said about the story. A massive game of telephone was afoot and rumors were spreading like wildfire. Suddenly, the administration coupled with Public Safety to destroy our lives and had the audacity to wait until school started to inform us.
Almost overnight a feeling of fear and animosity sprung up against Public Safety and both The Point News Online and SMCMLOL was flooded with comments by concerned students. St. Mary’s suddenly became a burgeoning police state and even alumni were concerned enough to comment on the story.
To those of us who read the article, it was made perfectly clear that we were being informed before the training took place and that the certification was a safety initiative not a way to further control students.
Dave Zylak, the Director of Public Safety himself, made it clear that for the most part (99.9% of the time), things will stay the same as they have ever been. He even went so far as to comment on The Point News website and offer students multiple ways to being their questions to the forefront. That seems pretty transparent. The question there becomes, how many students who wrote about the evils of Public Safety and the administration online actually have gone to those open hours.
While it can be understood how reading about Public Safety’s new certification to make arrests now, could be translated as the officers being able to ‘ruin your life’ for some simple college antics, the general attacks on the administration on the idea of full disclosure are not fair to the people who are being attacked.
Perhaps there is a growing police presence on campus but maybe we should not be so quick to judge the administration and Public Safety for taking the steps to maintain our safety and their own safety. Obviously this is a touchy subject but as educated individuals we must maintain perspective and not instantly go on the attack.
What we do see is the great effort put forth by the campus administrators to make sure that students know about the issues that affect them. And to those people who do see problems, why not go to a forum or Office Hours and discuss them? Make your voice heard, but do so in a way that is both educated and respectful. And let’s maintain St. Mary’s civility, not just amongst ourselves but also towards those with whom we may disagree.