Since the beginning of this semester, there have been changes in the security process upheld by the Meredith College Campus Police (MCCP). Many of these changes have been implemented in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. The process of checking students’ Campus Clear app and restricting visitors from going inside the residence halls or Oaks apartments have been helpful precautions. However, there is always room for improvement.
According to Chief Al White of the MCCP, officers are trained continuously throughout the year and are told to be generally accommodating. Students of color have reported incidents on @DearMereCo of disrespectful treatment by the MCCP that do not align with Chief White’s orders. This is not to say that the whole department is mistreating students of color, as there may be only a few officers who are not following the protocols of the MCCP. One anonymous student, who is African-American, shared her experience with two officers which has led to her now feeling the need to be hypervigilant about her outward appearance in a way that white students do not experience.
The anonymous student reported that in mid-September, she was returning to campus from the walking trail near Meredith. As she approached the gate to enter campus, the officer exited the gatehouse and walked over to her. At first, the interaction seemed to be normal. The officer asked to see her Campus Clear app, which she showed. He asked her if she was a Meredith student, then asked her to show her Meredith ID. However, even after she presented her ID, the officer continued to question her.
The student detailed her conversation with the guard during my interview with her. “He [said], ‘So, where are you going?’ and I [said], ‘My dorm.’” The guard asked which dorm, and she told him the name of her dorm building. “[I was thinking], ‘This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with any of [the guards].’ He was like, ‘Okay. Do you know where it is?’ and I said, ‘Yes [because] I live here.’” The guard finally let her through the gate, but the incident did not stop there.
As the student passed the fountain in front of Johnson Hall, she noticed an officer on a golf cart behind her. “I heard him talking on his walkie-talkie,” the anonymous student stated, “like, confirming [to another officer]. He was like, ‘Yeah. Okay.’” The student had a feeling that this was the first guard she had encountered at the gate telling the officer on the golf cart to follow her. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, here we go.’ I knew what was about to happen.” The guard pulled up behind her on the sidewalk, and she turned around towards him. The guard asked if she attended Meredith College. The student confirmed, once again, that she was a Meredith student who lives in Heilman Residence Hall. The officer then said, “Sorry about that…I didn’t recognize you.”
Some students have stated that they have not even had to show their Campus Clear app to the officers at the gate. One of the anonymous student’s white friends disclosed to the anonymous student that she had not been showing her Campus Clear app or ID when walking past the front gate. Chief White stated that officers do try to be flexible because the app occasionally glitches. He said that if an officer sees that a student has a parking decal, the Meredith onyx ring or another obvious indicator that one attends Meredith, the guards are supposed to be accommodating so that students are not late to class. However, the two officers that questioned and followed the anonymous student took up a significant amount of her time, meaning they were not following protocol.
The student expressed during the interview that “[the officer] saw me walk through the guard tower; [he] saw me walk in, so why? You have to double-check that I go here?” When asked how the incident made her feel and whether she feels the need now to do anything differently when walking around on campus, she replied, “Yeah, definitely. Especially with how this campus is and how homogenous it is…everybody wears the same thing, they all kind of look the same…I definitely present more masculine in my clothes; I don’t really dress that feminine.” She said that while many other girls can wear shorts, a t-shirt and a messy bun and be treated fine, when she wears a hoodie or shorts and a t-shirt, she is seen as someone who does not belong. She continued, “Especially with the mask on, it’s a lot harder for people to identify you, but I still don’t think that’s an excuse for treating people like that. But I definitely do try to dress more feminine now, and I try to outwardly show that I go here more, when before I was just walking around in my normal stuff. I am definitely more conscious of it, especially when I am walking out on the track. I always have my…ID ready to show because they always ask everywhere I go. I’m not anxious they’re going to hurt me…but I definitely am aware of my surroundings.”
Meredith’s black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) population has voiced that they do not feel a sense of belonging on campus, and a large part of why they feel this way is because incidents such as this student’s experience with the MCCP happen but are not dealt with properly. Making BIPOC students further verify that they go to Meredith even after they have shown their Campus Clear app or student ID implies to them that they do not belong at Meredith. There are multiple incidents similar to this anonymous student’s experience that have recently been voiced by students using the @DearMereCo Instagram platform. If there are officers who have implicit biases against BIPOC students, it is the Campus Police’s duty to address this and find a resolution that benefits students.
By Mia Shelton, Staff Writer