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On crime and punishment. (Editor's Note).

A STORY HIT THE NEWSWIRES ABOUT A MONTH BACK, AND I CAN'T get it out of my mind for one important reason: In that single story were combined virtually all of today's horrors and dilemmas regarding security on campus.

Seems Fayetteville, NC, police and Fayetteville State University campus police were at one of the school's dorms, trying to serve a resident with a murder warrant in a local homicide case, when they came across an armed robbery in progress. A pack of men were moving from room to room, waving a firearm and demanding electronic games, appliances, etc. In the process, a student was shot in the hand. As the police cornered two of the five robbery suspects, they also happened to notice marijuana in the injured student's room and charged him with selling drugs, and his roommate with possession of drugs and intent to sell a gun.

Oh, and by the way, they managed to nab the murder suspect, while they were at it.

Now, aside from the irony sloshing through this scenario--and the almost farcical chain of events--there are a number of serious points this series of incidents flushes to the surface:

1) How safe is a campus environment when murder suspects are able to use their campus dorms as refuge, possibly to the endangerment of unwitting roommates and dormmates? Who--if anyone--is tracking the suspect activity of students on campus, and should we be?

2) How safe is a campus environment when packs of roving bandits can enter campus buildings, threaten students or personnel at gunpoint, and assault them? On this particular campus, lighting and emergency call boxes had been significantly upgraded, said campus spokespeople, and residence halls had locked doors that sounded alarms when propped open. Must campuses also invest heavily in upgrading police presence? And if they do ...

3) Should the police, in their efforts to protect students and personnel against outside intruders, also be given free rein to protect students and campus employees from each other, by being somewhat unrestricted in their powers of search and seizure? In other words, was it right or even legal for the police to arrest the victim in this case, because as they were aiding him they happened to notice that he had drugs in his room, and that his roommate had a gun? Was this action an invasion of student privacy? And if it was (and this takes us back to point number one), is there any way to protect students and campus personnel from the potential criminals in their own midst?

Having recently published our April issue's "Special Section: Security," and now offering you this issue's feature focus on "Student Privacy," I have to tell you that I still don't have any easy answers to these questions. And I still feel uneasy about the issues because they create such a conundrum.

I want my son, on his campus, to be safe and secure from intruders who may slip onto campus, seeking to rob unsuspecting kids who are loaded with every conceivable electronic goody known to mankind. I want him to be free of the fear of terrorists from parts unknown, who may be lurking untracked and unmonitored. And I certainly want him to be able to sleep at night, knowing that his roommate is not a murderer, a mini drug lord, or the local arms distributor.

But do I want my son stopped in the hallway by police as he heads to the bathroom with a bucket of "suspicious-looking" shower items? Do I want his room eyeballed for beer cans? Do I want him to feel as though he's living in a police state?

It's going to take a great deal of intelligent planning to institute measures--electronic, human, and otherwise--that will protect our campuses and yet not strip the protectees of their rights to privacy. Right now there may be no ultimate protection, and there may only be interesting gradations between complete privacy and being stripped outright of that right. It's now all about how close we can get to ultimate protection in our campus security planning, and how carefully considered we can keep those privacy rights.
Katherine Grayson
Editorial Director
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Author:Grayson, Katherine
Publication:University Business
Date:May 1, 2002
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