Am I Being Detained?

Editor’s Note: This week, The Dartmouth Review is featuring student and alumni voices recounting their experiences with the Safety and Security and judicial affairs offices in their own words. Many Dartmouth Safety and Security officers have done a fine job over the years, and much of its interaction with students has been positive and professional. But there has also been a worrying trend of treating students like criminals and disregarding their rights, a trend which is evidenced by the following perspectives. None of the contributors to this feature are affiliated with The Review.

Anonymous, ‘15
September 2014

Around 1AM on a Friday night, S&S officers came down into the fraternity basement where I was socializing with my friends; there were approximately thirty people present. The officers immediately shut off our music, rounded everyone up in a circle and threatened to cite the fraternity for an unregistered social event despite the fact that the basement was relatively empty. There was little beer around, [but] no one appeared intoxicated (by S&S’s own admission). They made each person take out his/her ID and refused to let anyone leave the basement until they had finished writing down every single person’s name. Most people hadn’t been drinking at all and were treated like criminals simply for being guests at a fraternity.

Anonymous, ‘15
March 2012

In spring of my freshman year, Safety and Security assisted the Hanover Police enter my room despite there being no commotion or sign of activity. Their cause for entry had been a friend of mine telling them earlier in the night that he had been drinking there.

Upon entering the room, Safety and Security further assisted the Hanover Police into my inner room, once again without reason for entry or any sign of commotion or activity. After entering the room, Safety and Security officers stood side-by-side with Hanover Police officers as [they] questioned me about my activities and attempted to trick me into removing my wallet from my person and placing it in the room where it could be confiscated and searched.

Safety and Security also stood alongside the Hanover Police as they shook awake my sleeping roommate. When he didn’t immediately respond, the Hanover Police determined that he was unresponsive and arrested him. While he was sleeping, without his consent, and without a warrant, the police picked up his wallet and searched it for fake IDs.

Although I had been waiting for the Safety and Security report to shed light on the actions of the Hanover Police department, when I received it several days later, it did not include any mention of the unconstitutional or unprofessional behavior to which I had been subjected. I was shocked that Safety and Security would help enable the Hanover police in these activities and reduce my ability to seek recourse.

Nevertheless, the case was settled out of court on a plea deal after a lawyer argued successfully that there had been a violation of my constitutional rights.

James R. Aronstein ‘16
October 2012

Somehow, after a couple months at Dartmouth freshmen year, Justin Carrier ‘16 and I had developed a fierce pride for the school and felt that the perfect way to showcase this pride was to rush the Homecoming field. Later on, we were told by the administration that our will to “uphold tradition” was folly and that rushing the field, though we had perceived it as fun and harmless, was a childish, immature, and violent act.

Anyway, Justin and I ran onto the field while the Harvard band was in the middle of their half-time performance, and I’ve never heard a cheer for me and Justin so loud either before or since. We ran peacefully through the band members, stopping here and there to dance and make fools of ourselves, until the Hanover police tackled and handcuffed me in the middle of the field and escorted Justin to the sideline. They took us to the police station, told us where the best pizza places were in town, and took care of the logistical work like taking our mug shots and getting our fingerprints. All the while, however, they were very friendly and jovial. We were given a court date for “disorderly conduct”, a violation, and told we would have to pay a small fine. This really wasn’t so bad. In fact, when our charges were read at the Grafton County court, the entire courtroom laughed and the judge broke a smile as he sentenced us. Then our treatment by the state was done and we never heard anything of it again.

Not through speeches and majority decisions will the Greek system be crushed, but by iron and blood.

Not through speeches and majority decisions will the Greek system be crushed, but by iron and blood.

The school, on the other hand, took a much more aggressive stance toward us. We were treated like [miscreants] by the state, but we were treated like criminals by the College. We were sent confidential emails with case number subject lines telling us to review the student handbook and prepare a defense for our terrible violations – something the state didn’t even tell us to do. Our judicial hearings were absurd exercises. We each individually walked into this woman’s office for different hearings and it became clear to both of us very quickly that she was there to grill us, not help us. She began to ask us questions like, “Did you know you would be arrested?” to which we responded no; “Do you see how childish your actions are?” to which we were ultimately persuaded to respond yes; “Are you apologetic for your actions?” to which we were ultimately persuaded to respond yes; “Do you see how your actions aren’t representative of Dartmouth?” to which we were ultimately persuaded to responding yes. Regardless, the questions were intended to implicate us, not to clarify our situation or to help us.

We were made to feel embarrassed and ashamed of our “violent” actions, rather than proud of our school and the traditions we had upheld. Anyway, the term went on without a word from the judicial committee and we started to think that maybe they had just dropped it, seeing as disciplining us was absolutely ridiculous. Boy, were we wrong! I got an email after the term ended, on December 7, which happened to be my birthday. We were each given two terms of probation and told that we needed to seriously evaluate our values and the kinds of people we had become.

[Editor’s Note: Two terms of probation is the maximum punishment available to Dartmouth students short of a full suspension.]

Larry W. Weidner II, ‘85
October 2014

By way of background, I am an ‘85, a former Field Grade Officer in the United States Marine Corps, a former Reserve Police Officer, a former instructor at the Reserve Police Officer Training Academy, a former Prosecutor and not a member of Phi Delta Alpha fraternity.

During the early morning hours of 19 October 2014 at approximately 1:30 AM., I was in the basement of the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity enjoying a beer and good conversation with several of the undergraduates present.  I was standing with my back to the wall at the west end of the bar in the basement.  To my immediate left against the wall at the corner was a trash can containing empty cans and cups, and across the room to my left was the bottom of the stairwell leading into the basement.
My attention was immediately drawn to the stairwell when I heard a security guard, who was later identified to me as Security Guard Busch, yelling and verbally berating a student while storming into the basement.  The verbal abuse was loud enough to be heard over the music and basement conversation, although somewhat unintelligible at that point.  For his part, the student had his hands together and raised in a supplicative gesture and as they drew closer I could hear the student saying, “… Please sir, tell us what we are doing wrong.  Tell us how we are not in compliance.  We’re trying to comply; what are we doing wrong, how are we not complying…?”

Security Guard Busch continued unabated with his verbal castigation of the student and as he drew closer to me I heard, “… And what about this! (Gesturing towards the trash can).  This is a violation!  This is not in compliance!  I am going to report you for non-compliance! I’m shutting this place down!  As of right now you are shut down, do you understand me, shut down!”
The student asked, “How is this not in compliance?  It’s Homecoming weekend, that has been there all weekend.”
Security Guard Busch started to respond by saying, “I’ll explain it to you!” at which point he noticed that I was on the other side of the trash can observing.  I think he was startled when he realized that I was not a student but rather an adult alumnus of the College, carefully watching his behavior.  He stomped around the trash can, drew close, finger in my face and said, “I’ll explain it to you!  You cannot have cans and cups here, that is illegal!  That can of beer in your hand [pointing] is illegal. You can be arrested for that! … Do you want to get arrested! … Do you want me to arrest you!  You cannot have that can of beer at a keg party!”

I said, “That doesn’t make any sense…”

At that point he turned away, still blathering something about violations and arresting people and shutting the house down.
I was then approached by a second security guard, whom I am given to understand is a supervisor at Safety and Security, who said, “Look, he’s just doing his job…”

To which I replied, “… and you and I both know there is a right way and a wrong way for him to do his job.”

The second security guard then smiled at me in a manner which I took to imply that he agreed both with what I was saying and its implication, but that he was not going to comment further or break ranks with his partner, and then he walked away.
I remained with my back against the wall and attempted to resume my conversation with the several undergraduates present while Security Guard Busch continued his tirade as he paraded about the basement. When he passed back in front of me, Security Guard Bush suddenly lunged aggressively towards me and with his face an inch from mine while assuming a menacing body posture clearly intended to attempt to intimidate and provoke me snarled,

“If you got something to say to me, you say it to my face.”

To which I replied, “I will.”  I then stood my ground against the wall but did not take an aggressive posture or make any aggressive movement.

Realizing that his attempt to provoke the desired aggressive reaction from me had failed, he then continued to bluster, “…This place is shut down.  I am going to count every can of beer in that room! [pointing] … Then I’m coming back in an hour … If even one can is missing, I’m reporting it as a violation and someone is going to jail.  This house is shut down.”

After making his position on beer cans thoroughly clear, Security Guard Busch proceeded out of my sight and into an adjoining room, was there for a period of time, and then came out and left up the stairs, continuing his bellicose display as he went.

Following the departure of Security Guard Busch, no fewer than six undergraduates approached me to inform me that the encounter was typical of their interaction with the security guards of Safety and Security and with Security Guard Busch in particular.  They expressed regret that I had been engaged in the manner that I had been, but they also expressed gratitude that someone other than them had finally seen the way they are commonly treated by the Security Guards of Safety and Security.

The following morning I made inquiry of a number of students around campus and was disturbed to confirm that abuse and belittling by Safety and Security guards is a regularly occurring fact of life on campus.  The deplorable deportment I witnessed in the early morning hours of 19 October 2014 is not tolerated of Marines in hostile zones or otherwise, of police officers at any time, and was the most egregious abuse of power and the single greatest departure from the precepts of community policing and law enforcement professionalism I have ever witnessed.  If one of my Marines had acted as did Security Guard Busch, he or she would have been relieved immediately and sanctioned, likely with dismissal from the Marine Corps; a sworn police officer would have been cashiered by the department with which I served.  There is absolutely no way the security guards of Safety and Security, or the College that is responsible for their behavior, can expect the Dartmouth students whom they ultimately serve, to have any trust or confidence in the security guards of Safety and Security whatsoever when those guards behave in the manner I witnessed that evening.  The fact that this abuse is widespread and apparently a normal part of life in and around campus is disgraceful and brings great discredit upon the College and all who serve.