Campus Safety In a Toxic Political Climate
By this point, the hate act on the Powerhouse bridge and the forced removal of the Black Lives Matter banners are old headlines here at Beloit. However, they still linger in the minds of many students — particularly Black students. The election updates have done nothing to ease the anxieties of students whom Donald Trump’s political agenda excludes. To combat anxieties surrounding on-campus safety during election week, BSU and its allies have enlisted fellow students to volunteer for security shifts outside of the house.
Shifts have been available from 6PM until 7AM. During shifts, student volunteers sit in groups on the porch of the BSU house to stand guard. When asked about the need for security shifts, Jada Daniel of BSU states that, “I and many others were a bit uneasy about relying on the campus security because they are known for over-policing Black and Brown bodies.” Daniel also states that the implementation of a buddy system among students of color has been comforting. These safety ideas were devised after a student reported seeing trucks with Trump flags driving around campus. Daniel also gives credit to fellow students Erin Gallagher, Deo Edwards, and Kerry Randazzo for helping to get the security shifts and buddy system rolling.
Another opinion on campus safety as we await election results that I sought out was that of Cecil Youngblood, our Dean of Students. I interviewed Youngblood on November 5th, inquiring about his opinions on the BSU security initiatives and what Beloit College is doing to protect its students during this time of political tumult. “Everyone has got a heightened sense of what is going on,” says Youngblood. He states that on Election Day, police were patrolling close to campus, per the college’s request. Beloit College has a close relationship with the Beloit Police Department, and regarding officers, Youngblood states that, “They are no more than two minutes away from campus.” He also disclosed that on-campus security officers have been increasing rounds to cover particular areas of campus more frequently.
Youngblood is not a proponent of the student security shifts at the BSU house, since he believes that this in itself is unsafe. He worries that practicing vigilance in this particular fashion is not the safest option for residents of the BSU house or the student volunteers. “I love every single one of you more than you could possibly know,” says Youngblood, who wants nothing more than for students to feel safe on campus at all times. While he appreciates the initiative of the student body, he wishes that students would come to him with safety concerns rather than taking things into their own hands. In fact, protecting students is one of the things that Cecil finds most attractive about his job. Youngblood empathizes with students of color, saying, “I know what it’s like to be a person of color on a PWI [predominantly white institution] campus.” It is Cecil’s own experiences as a man of color on a college campus that drives him to make sure his students feel safe. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you all,” vowed Youngblood.
According to Youngblood, Beloit College is in close contact with the police force at all time. “I’ve got the lieutenant on speed dial,” quipped Youngblood. To ensure safety on campus, Cecil Youngblood does not solely rely on the police department, but maintains a strong bond with campus security, who he meets with each month. He encourages students to contact him immediately if they ever have an issue with an on-campus officer. Action will be taken once these instances are reported, as Cecil tells me that in the past, Beloit College has let go of around four former security officers accused of malpractice (some leave on their own), since he refuses to have anyone but the best officers protecting this campus. He also let me in on what the Beloit FBI does to ensure safety on campus. “They’ve been very vigilant about tracking information on white supremacist groups, and finding out if they are planning anything within a 150 mile radius,” says Youngblood. The Beloit FBI reports these sorts of things to the Beloit Police Department, who then reports to the college. The Beloit FBI not only discloses these intelligence reports to ensure safety at the college, but in the entire city. There has been no reported white supremacist activity in the area.
While students may feel anxious and unsettled as they await election results, Cecil Youngblood hopes that his testimony will restore a bit of solace across campus. Once again, if you or anyone you know is feeling unsafe on campus, do not hesitate to voice your concerns in an email to Cecil. If the staff at Beloit College are unaware of issues on campus, no action can be taken. Stay strong, Beloit.