Student rights remain ambiguous
By Caleb Diehl /// Managing Editor
At 8 p.m. on a Sunday night before spring break, Cole Gann (’17) opened his door in Platt West to find campus safety officers. They asked a few questions and left. An hour later they returned, and this time asked him to remove his Converse sneakers.
At 3 a.m. that Saturday, students at the DSA in the Copeland parking lot had knocked over a table and destroyed an umbrella. Someone also kicked the wheel of a car. Gann was returning from The Roxy downtown when he swiped into Platt.
As part of their standard procedure, officers check the records of swipe access into buildings near sites of misconduct. They thought Gann might have witnessed the vandalism at the DSA, but he said he didn’t have a clue what happened. The officers couldn’t match the shoe, and they have since declared the investigation inconclusive.
Asking for one of his shoes might have struck Gann as an unusual request, but the Lewis & Clark’s Directives policy says bizarreness doesn’t make a difference. Students must obey. “Failure to comply with requests or directions of LC officials (faculty, administrative and Campus Living staff, community standards officers), or law enforcement officers acting in performance of their duties is prohibited,” the two-sentence policy states. It gives as examples requests for identification and requests for meetings with college officials, but includes no further details.
By contrast, Reed College deems a student uncooperative if they refuse to answer the “reasonable questions” of the school’s community safety officers.
ASLC auditors Micah Leinbach (’14) and David Shapiro (’14) are digging through college policies, trying to determine how LC defines students’ rights in interactions with campus safety. Leinbach said he is “fairly sure” that the Code of Conduct and Housing Contract are the only LC documents that summarize the relationship between students and officers. The auditors plan to produce a report by the end of the semester.
Currently, it looks like rights are hard to come by. Besides the directives policy, the college outlines justification for room searches in the housing and lease contract. Officers can search a room with “reasonable suspicion” of a Code of Conduct violation, the contract states. “The student waives any claim against the College, its agents or employees based upon such entry.”
Officers can search a room, car or backpack, O’Dwyer said, with any “objective basis” to suspect a violation of college policy or the law. “It doesn’t take much,” he said, but added that, “there has to be something. Campus safety officers know that they can’t and won’t arbitrarily search people’s property.”
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