Letter to the Editor: Less Anonymous Name-Calling, More Constructive Criticism

Submitted on March 14, 2021. Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quest or the Editorial Board.

Content Warning: Discusses suicide, mental health, opiate use and overdose, and death.

Someone put a sticker on the Community Safety Honda that said “This Machine Transports  Fascists.” That does not feel like constructive criticism. It doesn’t feel like the action of an  intellectually curious person engaged in critical thinking about systems. It feels like  name-calling.  

I get that life is a lot right now. For some of us, life was a lot before the pandemic started. The  pace of change seems to be fast when change is moving in the wrong direction, and slow when  it’s moving in the direcon you think it needs to go. It is frustrating to feel like you have limited  power to make the changes you want to see in the world. It’s easy to feel like “if only we could  all just [fill in the blank].” It’s easy to slip into polarized, “us vs. them” thinking. And it’s easy to  call CSOs fascists.  

It’s much harder to say CSOs are a diverse group of individuals who care about students.  Because I work in the Community Safety Department, I know that CSOs come from diverse  backgrounds. We’re diverse in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity,  country of origin, age, education, and more. Some of us are single parents, some of us have  children with disabilities, some of us are survivors, some of us are living with invisible illnesses,  and some of us are caring for aging parents. Like everyone else at Reed, CSOs have multiple  intersecting identities. We are here, doing a customer service job, because we are the kinds of  people who like to help. We are the kinds of people who enjoy being camp counselors, and who  see ourselves as part of a safety net at the college.  

Let me say that again: We are part of a safety net. We are here when your friend misjudges how  much alcohol they can drink in a sitting. We’re here when you use your box cutter incorrectly  during Orientation move-in and need to navigate getting stitches in a new city without your  support network. We are here when you don’t know what’s wrong, and think you might be  dying (we typically get at least one of those calls every year). We are here all night long. We are  here every weekend. We are here on every major holiday. We are here during a pandemic. And  we make sacrifices to be here.

I referred to our work as customer service earlier. That might sound odd to some folks. Most  people wouldn’t intentionally pay to have someone confiscate their alcohol or cannabis.  However, unless Reed College can demonstrate that we both have, and enforce, an Alcohol and  Other Drugs policy, we risk losing federal financial aid. We risk losing National Science Foundation grants, and other funding. That might not matter to the roughly 50% of Reedies who 

are not on some form of financial aid, but I guarantee that the prospect of losing financial aid  matters to the roughly 50% of Reedies who can only be here because they receive it.  

Most of you haven’t been at Reed long enough to have institutional memory that goes past four years. That means you have no reason to know that the DA once threatened to prosecute Reed College using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), as a location of known criminal activity (in that case underage alcohol and drug use) if we didn’t do enough to prove we took that work seriously. Have you ever noticed that CSOs don’t write tickets for minors in possession of alcohol? We don’t arrest people either. We have the same power of citizen’s arrest that everyone else on campus has.  

CSOs don’t actually sign up for this work because we want to enforce AOD policy (those people  don’t make it through the hiring process). We sign up for this work because we want to make  sure no one dies. We mostly succeed. If you exclude the two non-Reed individuals who came to  campus to commit suicide, then only two people have died on campus since 2010. If you extend  that timeline back further, you get to the student opiate overdose deaths that lead to the  college getting threatened with prosecution under RICO.  

People don’t become CSOs because they’re power-hungry megalomaniacs, because they want  to enforce AOD policy, or because they want to tell houseless people that they cannot be here  during a pandemic. People sign up to be CSOs because they want to unlock your door, jumpstart  your car, walk you across campus when you feel unsafe, patrol campus looking for broken things  that pose safety risks, and help you when you need help. People become CSOs because they like  the idea of being part of a community, and caring for that community.  

Remember that the person you’re calling a fascist is the person who is checking to make sure  that there’s naloxone in overdose kits around campus. The person you’re calling a fascist is the  person who has signed up to perform CPR on you. They are the person who will be called about  the dead body in the construction site North of Grove on a Sunday afternoon, and potentially  the person who will coordinate calling a company that specializes in cleaning up after human  remains (once the coroner has removed most of the body). Go on, ask me how I know.  

For fascists, we’re incredibly responsive to student feedback. The only reason there’s a Honda  Fit to put a sticker on is because we were asked by students on the Sustainability Committee to  please buy more environmentally friendly cars. Prior to the Honda, we had the Subaru and a  Ford Escape (prior to the Subaru we had two Ford Escapes). We use the term cannabis instead  of marijuana because of student feedback. We stopped taking unattended laptops into 

safekeeping because of student feedback. We have revised our practices around when we call  the Portland Police Bureau based on student feedback.  

Once again for those in the back: We have revised our practices around when we call PPB based  on student feedback.  

We are human. We do sometimes make mistakes. Some practices age well, and others need  revision. If you see a policy or a procedure that you think should be changed, please tell us. You  can tell Gary, you can tell Gary’s boss Karnell, or you can tell our Admin Coordinator Kathy (she  doesn’t do any security-type work, and is super-kind). Whoever in Student Life you feel  comfortable telling. If you think we can do something better, please tell us. We want to do a  good job serving this community. What we don’t want is to be called names by anonymous  people who have no productive suggestions for what we can do better. 

Community Safety Manager Dhyana Westfall ‘05

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