“Can you believe that Security won’t let me ride my longboard without lights on the path?” “I was only going 24 miles per hour, and Security gave me a ticket for reckless driving!” “These guys are just wannabe cops looking to mess with us for no reason!” Sound familiar? These remarks are frequently heard at Principia about Campus Security. Sometimes it is easy to become frustrated with authority figures who reprimand students (and even fine them) for disobeying the rules. But Campus Security has a mandate to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students while attending Principia.
They are the first people who greet visitors at the gatehouse when people enter the college property, and the last to say goodbye when they leave. The Campus Security office is located on the bottom floor of the Howard Center, near the mailroom, and they have a staff of officers who operate 24 hours a day. They also patrol the outlying property to ensure that no one is trespassing or engaging in inappropriate activities on any part of Principia property. They are always ready to jump a dead car battery, locate a missing bike, assist a disabled vehicle and help with fire drills. They also take calls from parents who are concerned because their son or daughter hasn’t called in a while. And, of course, they enforce the rules of the campus and collect fines from those who are issued tickets.
Campus Security is also involved with developing projects. A delegate from Security meets with other department heads at the monthly Capital Projects meeting to discuss future plans for the improvement of Principia. They contribute to the discussion about security issues that will arise if new roads are paved or a new building is constructed on campus.
Matthew Brill is the director of Campus Security, and has been with Principia for about 10 years. He is a sixth generation Californian from Simi Valley. But when he was visiting a relative in St. Louis, he fell in love with the area and decided to move here with his wife and children. In Simi Valley, he spent 13 years in law enforcement; when he moved to St. Louis, he became a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods. He then blended his law enforcement experience and his customer service skills as a Principia security guard and later the manager of the security department.
Officer Dianne Hite, the only female officer on the force, has worked in the security field for her entire career. She went through university-level instruction for police administration, but got married and decided not to become a law enforcement officer. She started working security jobs when she was 21, and has continued to do so ever since. She held a security position at General Electric offices for a long time, as well as working other retail guard jobs. She enjoys her position at Principia and admits that for the first time, she feels “like one of the guys [on the job], and I’m good with that.” She can be forgiving; she says “I’m all for giving a warning, especially to freshmen parking on the grassy hill at Rackham.” She is focused on diplomatically ensuring that the campus rules are being enforced. This is to maintain a safe campus for everyone. When asked if something could make her job at Principia even better, she said she would enjoy meeting more students. She asks students to “Get to know us. Make us talk to you. And we’ll get to know you guys.”
While discussing the Board-authorized budget, Brill reports that “… it’s less than $100,000 annually” and adds “I think right now, we have the things that we need.” He is charged with covering payroll and staffing needs, which include uniforms, lightbulbs, and any other miscellaneous needs. Campus Security does retain some fees they collect. Brill explained that they keep “the money … [from] the citations that we issue for speeding or parking and things like that.” Brill also noted that “over the last three to four years we have had a slow decrease in the actual number of citations that we have issued to people.”
A commonly held misconception is that the $100 parking fee that students pay goes to Security, since they issue the parking passes. But in actuality, the money for parking passes goes to the administrative offices of the College.
When the topic of any needed improvements came up, Hite said succinctly, “There’s always improvements that can be made.” One suggestion she offered was “I’d like for all the officers to get out and meet more of the students … we are people, too.” She would love to see an increase in the positive interaction between Campus Security and students. Brill echoed those sentiments when he addressed the stereotypically negative opinion of Campus Security. Instead of the perception that they are “only there to give tickets … and punish people when they do something wrong” he would like the students to know that “we’re here as a resource for everyone, one of a very few departments that is here [on duty] 24/7/365.”
Brill is focused on establishing a more positive interaction between his department and students. He stressed that he and his officers are here to help: whenever, however, and in any situation. If they can’t, then they will happily direct students to the department or personnel who can. He said, “We’re not here to just punish people; we’re here to help them through that life experience [of facing the consequences of broken rules] to support that character education that Principia is trying to develop here.” In past years, he has had a liaison with the Student Life department, where a representative attends house meetings to help facilitate a friendly relationship between students and Security. Although this program is off to a slower start this year, Brill is still committed to achieving his goal of better communication with the students, no matter how much effort it takes. He says one strategy might be to “show our faces more – not just when you pay tickets or buy parking passes at the window.”