Last semester I found myself attending a Student Security introductory meeting in O’Connor Commons. Whenever I attend an event in O’Connor Commons, there’s an inevitable awkwardness in the space: my first-year Luau TAP, admitted students weekend, this meeting. It’s simply too large, and the attendees look small, as if almost swallowed by the blinding nothingness of the walls.
I was here because I was considering a job working as a Student Security monitor. A semester ago, they were suffering a shortage of people, and even now, they still need more workers: students quit and come and go too easily. There’s many reasons: schoolwork, a new job, or the difficulty of dealing with students. But there’s also a lovely community in this hard-working group of students. Together, they’ve encountered the problems of patting down the guy in their Nazi Germany class they’ve never spoken to, they’ve learned how hard Campus Police works, and they’ve seen some wild nights.
A student security worker is motivated to work by a plethora of reasons, but they are all working towards the same end goal—keep a certain event safe for all participants. This is why there are checkpoints when entering a dorm and a pat down when you arrive at an official party. These procedures are in place not to hinder you but to stop any potential threats. The motto on their Twitter is “Your Evening Is Safe” and they do their best to accomplish this in the least intrusive way possible.
This is a fact that the Amherst “bubble” buffers us against. We live in an altered environment where we encounter little to no physical danger. At larger schools, there’s a security guard in every dormitory and casual visitors are a strict violation to housing. It’s a blessing that many of us can ignore this. The most violence I face? My perpetual clumsiness and my constant wintertime struggle with black ice. These security procedures are a reminder of an unseen danger that we sometimes refuse to understand.
There are many reasons why we seem to forget all courtesy when interacting with our peers. A typical scenario: it’s late evening Saturday and a group of students have been pregaming. They’re intoxicated and decided to go to a BSU or GAP or a La Causa party. Not surprisingly they enter and have to go through a pat down and then be screened for any metal objects. Why? To make certain they’re not carrying illicit materials into the event or anything that could possibly injure another student or themselves. It’s a process that’s annoying, yes. It suddenly transports you out of the campus and into an airport. But these students working as security aren’t the hardened TSA officers who bark at you to take off your belt. They are students. Simply because, for this four hour period, they don a black shirt and request you go through some straightforward procedures does not make them into an authority that is automatically oppressive. Do they want to actually find a weapon or a kilo of coke? Heavens, no.
Perhaps you’re embarrassed that you have to go through this whole thing. Yes, everyone is, but the more cooperative you are the quicker and less awkward it all is. And above all, don’t be a tool. As an Amherst student, your probability of being called a tool goes up a factor of five. The easiest interaction a student can have with a security monitor is to follow their instructions. These students are working an event they’d probably like to attend. Student security was screening throughout the entire Icona Pop concert. Ask any of those workers how much of the concert they were genuinely able to enjoy.
As Amherst students, we’re critical thinkers. Attack, defend, disprove. I think I’ve lost every argument I’ve had here but this is something I can say with absolute certainty: Student Security is an undervalued group that does the school, and us, an incredible service. A fact that’s utterly and constantly disappointing to me is the way student workers are scapegoated and mistreated over the course of their job. Security isn’t to blame for the underwhelming TAP or the awkwardness of an empty dance floor; they’re here to make certain everyone can safely enjoy themselves. Make everyone’s night a little more pleasant, respect those who work these events.