Campus and Public Safety: The Myths and Realities

Campus and Public Safety exists to ensure the safety of students on campus, but there have recently been some controversies concerning the office’s procedures. Director of CPS Robert Cocco said, “We are here for everyone’s safety, [we] aim to protect a safe atmosphere where students can function and learn.”

Here at Washington & Jefferson College, confusion has been swirling around the idea of students’ rights and the rights of security officials in different circumstances. There has recently been a perceived divide between CPS and the student body. Some questions and or general perplexities that students face revolve around the idea of where CPS officers are and are not allowed to be present, such as in personal dorm spaces.

Alessandro Martin ’20 said, “I appreciate their concern considering the fraternities [and increasing security] just as is being done at Penn State due to a student’s death. However, Greek life is a very popular attraction for W&J students that attracts students to the college. The harsher enforcement has made it more difficult for students to enjoy their weekends.” Kelsey Julien ’21 said, “I feel secure, yet much more uneasy around the additional forces, as my perception of the law has never been very great.”

The rules and regulations for both students and CPS officers are clearly listed in the student handbook. Some students become frustrated with the strict enforcement of substance usage rules; however, the Student Handbook clearly states that “consumption, purchase, possession, or transportation of any alcoholic beverages by people under the age of 21 is prohibited. It is also unlawful for any person to knowingly provide alcoholic beverages to anyone under the legal drinking age of 21.” Also, it must be understood that “students who provide or host an environment in which individuals under the age of 21 are found to be possessing or consuming alcohol or provided the opportunity to possess or consume alcohol, will be found in violation of the alcohol policy.”

W&J enforces the same laws and regulations as the local, state, and federal government. Robert Cocco said, “The handbook clearly states that no public containers with alcohol are allowed. Underage drinking is not tolerated whatsoever, however, drinking responsibly at the legal age is permitted.” It is indeed the responsibility of the student body to know and understand the code of conduct, as all attending students must sign their agreement to the rules and regulations of the school.

Students’ right to privacy has always been a confusing topic for some students, which contributes to the recent controversy on campus. When asked about privacy issues on campus, Robert Cocco outlined the usual reasoning for searches. He stated that all students have the right to privacy. However, when a room search is necessary, CPS adheres to strict policies. Reasons for room searches are very limited, and they can be based on student consent, a search warrant or an administration-warranted search. The College owns the property, so College officials have the right to search by means of the standard procedure when warranted. The Student handbook states, “Seeking student permission to conduct a room search is a courtesy; if a student declines a room search can still take place as it is ultimately College property.” The room searches that will take place are only conducted if a report of an issue or violation is reported to or observed by campus security. It is also crucial to note that, “if the College receives a report of a potential policy violation, particularly a violation of the College’s drug, health and safety, and/or weapons and explosive materials policies, the Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students or his/her designee may authorize a search verbally or in writing.” It is also necessary for an administrator on call to be present in most room search situation. Consent is additionally possible in the form of a signable form that gives officers permission to enter the premise of a students room.

According to the handbook it is possible for “Sworn Campus Police Officers, with the assistance of Campus Security Officers, [to] perform a room search within legal limits.” Certain students are interested in changes in CPS this year. Robert Cocco wants to assure students that they will be notified of changes. Cocco said, “If there are [changes], they are due to new staff members and the evolution of the department while also the new training of staff members.” It was also discussed that the perceived increase in presence on campus is meant to keep students as safe as possible while reducing total amount of problems that occur.

In a final statement about CPS presence, Cocco said, “We want to see students’ exceed [and] we are not here to hinder achievement . . . we will work with students when possible to help them through their possible issues.”