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By L. Kincaid Holmes

Campus security officers repeatedly stopped and cautioned a student who was frequently driving off campus during the recent weeks of the Illinois stay-at-home order, and they cited COVID-19 death statistics to the student to raise awareness, Matthew Brill, campus security director, said this week.

The Pilot inquired about the practice after an unnamed student, who still lives on campus, raised the issue at the April 21 student Town Hall meeting and Interim President John Williams said it was not a policy he knew about and would check into it.

“Every time I leave campus to go get Taco Bell I get met by more than one security person warning me about how strict it’s going to get and how many people are dying each day,” the student wrote in a question at the Town Hall. “They have a printed list and tell us how many people have died from [COVID-19]. Can we ask that they stop? It’s not helping our thoughts to be met with negativity.”

Campus Security doesn’t have a list of COVID-19 deaths at the gatehouse, wrote Matthew Brill, Principia College’s head of security, in an email interview. “The only lists we have, are of who is allowed on campus during this situation.”

“Every morning, senior [college] leadership receives a number from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization of the number of deaths,” Williams told the Pilot in a phone interview.

That list is not shared with the gatehouse, he said.

“Two of my staff did talk to a student on several different occasions, because they saw that student regularly leaving campus,” Brill confirmed.  

Campus Security officers advised the student to be cautious in light of the daily increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths, but that was “based on individual knowledge by that staff member of current CDC numbers related to the [COVID-19] pandemic,” said Brill, and not from a list.

Brill directed his staff not to repeat the practice going forward, and he said that since he became aware of the issue no campus security officers have spoken to students about local deaths as they leave campus.

“Understand, as those having the responsibility to protect all of Principia, both metaphysically and physically, we sometimes have to make community members aware of situations, which are sometime upsetting or difficult,” Brill explained.

Featured photo courtesy of Kimanii Ogilvie.