Elizabethtown College students had the opportunity to meet and talk to Campus Security officers at the College’s first Coffee with Campus Security event on Thursday, Nov. 3. The meeting took place in Hoover 110 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Campus Security Director Andrew Powell said the event was designed to let students and officers get to know each other in a more casual setting. The meet-and-greet style was unstructured and allowed students to come and go as they pleased. A few officers sat at each table and answered students’ questions. Cookies, donuts and coffee were available.
Conversation topics covered everything from the duties the officers have to the things they do outside of work. Some officers and students discovered different things they have in common with each other. Both officer Jeffrey Williams and junior Colby Schweibenz have been on trips to Honduras in the past.
Pictures of each of the officers were displayed on a screen at the front of the room. The officers and students at one table spent some time looking at the pictures and laughing at some of the officers’ facial expressions.
Officer Dee Nevills, who joined the security team earlier this year and is the College’s newest officer, said she enjoys working with her colleagues in the security field. “I’ve been working in security my whole life,” Nevills said. “Security itself is the same everywhere, but working at Etown is new for me because of the age groups I’m dealing with.”
Several officers described the most unique situations they’ve dealt with at Etown, from encounters with intoxicated students to dealing with fires in residence halls. They also described less intense duties, such as jump-starting students’ cars. Officer and dispatch coordinator Cyndi Young said Campus Security jump-starts an average of three to four cars per week.
Young, who has worked for Campus Security since 1981, described how much the College and its students have changed since she started working here. “Years ago, if anything moved after 10 or 11 p.m. you knew something was up,” Young said. “Now it’s not uncommon to have students out and about at 4 or 5 a.m. on weeknights.”
Officer Ryan Valentine said he has noticed a change in the relationship between students and officers. He said this is probably due to a combination of negative media portrayals of police and the technology Etown students can use to interact with Campus Security. Williams said it is important for both students and officers to ignore stereotypes and focus on the officers’ duties at the College.
“You can’t go into this job wanting to be a TV cop,” Williams said. “You have to want to do it for the right reasons.”
Williams is in charge of controlling the card access system that lets students enter buildings by swiping their student IDs. He and the other officers agreed that they would much rather help students in situations where they are not in danger, such as trying to enter an academic building, because these interactions build positive student-officer relationships.
The event was advertised in the College’s Campus News email and on Campus Security’s Twitter page. Powell mentioned Campus Security’s page on Etown’s website as a good way for students to find out more about what Campus Security does. While this is convenient for students, it also takes away an opportunity to interact with an officer in person.
Powell said that he was pleased to see the number of conversations going on between the students and officers throughout the event and plans to hold Coffee with Campus Security events every semester.
“Part of the reason for holding this event was to challenge some of the misconceptions out there that Campus Security is only here to get students in trouble,” Powell said. “I hope that when we hold these events in the future we will be able to have more students attend and change those misconceptions.”
“A lot of people feel intimidated when they see one of us in uniform,” Nevills said. “So it’s important for us to make ourselves accessible. We’re all different human beings with families, interests and lives outside of our jobs. At the same time, we are here for the students and are all genuinely caring people.”