Our Police State School

We are in the autumn of our discontent here at the College. Each week The Signal has to deliver news about a new, depressing restriction. Between the threat of litigation for downloading music, the ubiquitous presence of parking tickets and the Ewing Township ordinance cracking down on underage drinking, the college experience is being smothered by regulation after regulation.

Granted, laws are laws. While it is folly to protest illegally obtaining music, parking in the wrong spot or underage drinking, there is one aspect of our atmosphere that is unacceptable: the relationship with the office of Campus Police Services.

At the forefront of the problem is the amount of parking tickets given out. Ticketing began in the parking lots and garages at midnight, Sept. 5. Students unaware that “Sept. 5” meant the second the clock struck midnight were unpleasantly surprised with one or more $50 tickets in the morning. These students were already paying between $77 and $230 to park on campus.

Other students were unaware that a parking decal fee was included in their tuition bill (which is getting high enough as it is) and paid for parking even though they don’t have a car on campus. Some students parked in the Eickhoff Hall garage were even ticketed before the Sept. 5 deadline.

It’s not only students who are complaining: faculty, graduate students and even visitors have encountered problems both with being ticketed and disrespected by Campus Police. The situation has even prompted an SGA resolution – still pending – intended to strengthen relations between the College community and Campus Police.

As of now, there seems to be no change in the attitude of a majority of Campus Police officers. Recently, a housemate of one of our staff members received a ticket in Lot 3 for an expired registration. When he told her she was not allowed to drive the car away, she asked if it was OK to leave her car there because she had been ticketed for doing so in the past. The officer then told her she could drive to Lot 6. When our staff member, also present, pointed out his contradiction, he said, “If you’re going to get smart, I’ll tow the car right now.”

This was at 2:30 a.m. The officer did not ask how they were going to get home or if they needed an escort.

After speaking with the sergeant on duty, they found out that the College’s policy is, contrary to the officer’s threat, to wait 48 hours before towing a car.

This is just one example of myriad stories we have heard of Campus Police officers abusing their authority and treading on the rights of the members of this community.

According to the Campus Police Web site, “Safety is our primary concern.” Although we sympathize with the added pressure placed on the office since the John Fiocco tragedy, the actions of Campus Police have not made us feel any safer.

Where was the concern for safety when two girls were sent off alone into the middle of the night? Where was it when they refused to respond immediately to a potential hate crime when Chabad’s sukkah outside Brower Student Center was damaged several weeks ago?

We cannot be expected to trust these officers when we need their assistance if we consistently feel persecuted and threatened by them.

We recognize that Campus Police officers have as much authority as any police officer in New Jersey. We realize that some college students may be disparaging or disrespectful to officers, but does that mean they should be hostile and condescending to the faculty, students and visitors of this school?

It’s a shame that while the College is getting so many national accolades – most competitive rankings, most beautiful campus, happiest students, a best buy, etc. – the community feels like it is living in a police state.

Despite a rigorous and celebrated academic program, prospective students are not going to want to come here if it means being robbed of a typical college experience and being sneered at by police officers and their egos.