What Is The Role Of The CSO On Campus? The Pool Hall Party Incident Leaves Us Questioning…

Content Warning: Mentions of Sexual Assault

“That day I realized that Reed has some incredibly fucked up people, and as an individual, I have no way of safeguarding myself against them. I, as an individual, should know CPR and first-aid, because I don’t feel the environment around me would be able to help” said Skye Kychenthal 26’ about the incident on Sunday, September 4th involving two Reed students being roofied at a party in the Pool Hall. Recently, the Reed community has become used to hearing about tragic instances of sexual violence, given the previous report just this year during Orientation Week. The dangers of sexual assault are more prevalent than ever, so the Pool Hall incident serves to show the role of the Community Safety Officers, or CSOs, in the Reed Community. 

In the words of Community Safety Manager Dhyana Westfall, “CSOs are part of the division of Student Life, and the campus’ safety net. On a normal day, a majority of our time is spent patrolling campus buildings and grounds, and then we break away from those activities to respond to calls we receive from the community or alarms.” Regarding the crisis management aspect of the job, she states, “We walk, or drive, people across campus after dark if they feel unsafe. We help triage medical calls and render minor first aid. If a medical call falls outside of the scope of our training, we determine if it’s life-threatening and requires an emergency response, or if a phone call to an advice nurse/trip to the HCC would help someone better determine their next steps.” Regarding crisis on campus, the CSOs are who students should call; however, the situation was more complicated on the night of September 4th. 

“Me and a few friends were at a pool hall party thing, and around 11:30 when we were about halfway back, the person who got roofied started to feel sick. At first we thought they had had a bit much to drink, and once we got there we were practically carrying them. We got them sat down in the common room and they started to feel really lightheaded, that’s when we called the CSO” recounted a first-year who asked to remain anonymous. They continued, stating that “Five-ish minutes later the CSO showed up and examined them, he asked the basic questions, has anyone seen anything? etc. Then we discussed getting them an ambulance but they (the student) didn’t want one, so we helped them get to their room. We followed the CSOs recommendation to keep them on their side, and get them a bucket to vomit into. The CSO stayed for 20ish minutes but then had to go to another call, that’s when he put us in touch with the nurse hotline.” This story lines up with a separate account given by Skye Kychenthal, who says that “the HCC (Health Campus Center) was called, but they would be unable to provide immediate assistance, so CSOs were called…to check in on the situation, but had to promptly leave as there was another ‘similar case’ alongside a case of an at-the-time missing student.” They continued, stating, “The CSO said they would come back at 2:00 AM, but only came back around 2:30 AM and were there for a brief period to make sure my friend was still breathing and not dead, and then had to leave to focus on the two other cases. There were no night owls on duty and there were only two CSOs on duty.” 

Both of these accounts bring up significant concerns regarding campus safety. First off, Night Owls, the student group that offers help such as food and water, a walk home, or calling additional support for partying students, are only active on Friday and Saturday night, leaving them without these resources on this Sunday night. As for the CSOs’ situation that night, it is clear that they were spread very thin, with multiple dire situations that needed addressing, occurring at the same time. Regarding the staffing concerns of that night, Dhyana Westfall states, “Community Safety is close to being fully staffed, but we’re currently down one full-time position (for which we are actively interviewing candidates). Right now we’re prioritizing trying to keep as many people on nights as possible, and leaving the open position on the day shift.” However, the understaffing concerns the CSOs are facing seem to reflect a greater national trend. “It takes at least 6 weeks to onboard new Community Safety Officers, and a full year of working at Reed for a CSO to learn what the ‘normal’ CSO response to any given event (Noise Parade, Spring/Fall Thesis Parade, Nitrogen Day, etc.) looks like,” Westfall said. “The ‘Great Resignation’ is a national trend, and in many ways, staffing at Reed can be seen as a microcosm for what’s going on with labor and employment all over the country.” 

It is clear that the night of September 4th was a difficult and troubling night for all parties affected by this saddening violence; however, it displays a disturbing lack of communication within the Reed community. Community Safety, the administration, and student groups like the Night Owls and Student Senate should be prepared for instances such as the Sunday, September 4th party in the Pool Hall, a campus space, and provide preventative measures such as drink covers and additional personnel to limit the threat of sexual violence. At the very least, the groups mentioned above should be reacting to these situations by creating such preventative measures; though, no such information has been shared as of right now. 

However, the Community Safety Office has been open to the Quest regarding communication difficulties and clarifying student misconceptions about the CSOs. One such misconception is the belief that students should call 911 instead of the CSOs in an emergency situation, a discrepancy that Skye Kychenthal mentioned they thankfully avoided that night. “Most firefighters and EMTs serve Portland at large and don’t actually know where all of the various dorms and academic buildings are located on our campus,” Westfall said. “The Community Safety’s role is to meet emergency responders on the edge of campus, and guide them to the specific location of the emergency, for the fastest possible response.” On the topic of additional concerns or information the student body should know about CSOs, Westfall stated that “CSOs are Mental Health First Aid certified. We’re trained to assess if someone in crisis is in danger, or if they’re simply moving through life in an altered state. We try to respond with empathy, and connect people to the appropriate resources for the situation. The common threads uniting everyone in this department are that we care about students, and that we want to do a good job. If students ever have concerns about, or feedback on, how CSOs approach any situation, Community Safety welcomes feedback! Students can fill out an anonymous survey on our webpage.”

The SHARE advocates and program director offer confidential support and information for all Reed community members who have experienced sexual or relationship harm, and for their allies. State law prohibits them from disclosing information shared with them (except for abuse of a child), and they do not make reports to the college. Learn more about what they do and resources available to survivors at reed.edu/share. Contact advocates@reed.edu, or contact Rowan at frostr@reed.edu

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