Student Protest on Security Crackdown Lacks Focus

By BRIAN ROCHA
On October 28, 2015

Photo by Nicole Williams

With tensions rising over the last few weeks between students and the administration over the increased scrutiny of groups gathered on campus, one might have expected a barrage of questions and demands for reform from the student body at last Thursday’s “RamaProtest.” Instead, what occurred was an orderly line to take selfies with President Mercer, who came out, he said, to show he is aware of student concerns.

While there have been rumblings of Public Safety officers breaking up small groups outside of the village, many of these rumors have been so warped and hyperbolized through an inexplicable need to oppose something that they have moved into the realm of fiction. Nowhere in the most recent edition of Ramapo’s guideline to community living does it state that the actions taken by Public Safety are allowed, which has been the centerpiece of outcry.

However, the characterization of these occurrences greatly exaggerates what Mercer said in his State of the College: Public Safety officers will now be paying closer attention to groups. If students have open containers or cups, Public Safety officers will approach them and advise them of Ramapo’s alcohol policy. If groups build, they will monitor noise levels and ask particularly loud groups to move along.

Some have gone as far to equate the checking of IDs upon entering the Village, which is done at every other residence area except the CPAs, to that of a prison -  a grossly irresponsible and absurd accusation. Yes, it is unnecessary. That being said, the presenting of a student’s ID cannnot even be considered an inconvenience because it is so trivial of an action that it takes less than five seconds to complete.

More often than not, the people who cry foul the loudest are the same people who out of ignorance or pure lack of interest do not attend the numerous public safety outreach programs, meetings with President Mercer or have taken the time to vocalize their concerns to other community members who may be able to act as liaisons between campus leaders and Mercer.

The efforts made by the administration have by and large been ignored, but when students have the opportunity to make a show of their discontent amongst their peers, that is when they go all-in, without considering the fact that the bridges they are trying to form have already been established.

Over 1,000 students are members of the Facebook group that organized the “protest,” but only a minute fraction of that number attended the annual Take Back the Night march, an actual protest for reform in the safety of our campus. The drive of students for change when it effects their ability to drink, yes that’s what this is really about, is unfathomable compared to the outrage that should be taking place as a result of sexual violence which is the catalyst for reactions by the College.

It would be naïve to believe or even to entertain the notion that simply gathering outside in bulk is at the core of what students really desire.

In the staged happenings of an “average” party night where everyone is sober and came to “protest” is naturally not going to be an issue. In reality, when gatherings of this magnitude actually occur they are an overflowing of larger parties happening within the apartments that likely exceed capacity limits and house dozens of underage students drinking, two huge factors completely overlooked by the “protest” and, not only are against college policy, but against federal law.

By this point, you are probably wondering why the word protest has continually been put in quotations; it is because gathering more than 100 students does not make for a protest. Some may view this turnout alone as a victory, however, congregating outside and doing little more than tossing a Frisbee or chatting in a circle is not a protest. To an outsider this is a crowded public space, to an insider it is a pitiful attempt to change policy.

There was no visible sense of leadership, most people did not adhere to holding solo cups and previously discussed chants were not delivered. The united front was not present aside from people occupying space and a union of student voices was certainly not heard.

President Mercer did arrive. Public Safety did stand in the background. But most of the students opted to take selfies and schmooze with the face of their opposition instead of demanding reform.

brocha@ramapo.edu

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