Students are demanding that Residence Life only call the police in the case of an emergency and rely on other outlets, such as counselors and professionals, to handle sensitive cases regarding mental health and sexual assault.
Madeline Dyer, a junior who worked at the front desk for both McDonald and Centennial Hall, wrote the petition as protests against racial injustice were creating a climate for change.
“As protests started rising, as things started rising in the country, it kinda made me think about things locally and . . . it kinda seems like there’s some agenda within the BGSU PD as per why they're in certain dorms at certain times,” Dyer said.
According to Dyer, she’s noticed a greater police presence in the more affordable housing options that the university has to offer.
“While (the police) were in Centennial, they weren’t there hardly as much as Mac. And they were there (at Centennial) at a decent hour and not in the middle of the night,” Dyer said.
Although there has been a greater police presence in specific residence halls, Chief of Police Michael Campbell argues that calls of service are dictated by the size of the dormitory and not by the cost.
“Some of the bigger halls, we see that we’re there more often. But I think that more equates to population than a smaller hall that doesn’t have as many students,” Campbell said.
Furthermore, the petition calls for officers to stop penalizing students for misdemeanor offenses, especially due to financial barriers. These minor offenses have been “costing students hundreds of dollars and some to even drop out of school,” the petition states.
“As a police agency here at BGSU, there are going to be times we may cite or arrest students or faculty and staff on various charges. It’s really dependent situationally. I can tell you from what I can see from our data . . . citations and arrests are really our last resort for us,” Campbell said in response.
For example, the BGSU police department's 2019 annual report has shown 2,600 calls of service and community engagement interactions with only 69 citations.
“If you take that as a whole number, that’s like 2.5% of the time that we were in the halls and interacting with people,” Campbell said.
While these numbers are relatively low from Campbell’s perspective, levels of comfortability with the police is still an ongoing issue for students as well as RAs.
Before creating the petition, Dyer surveyed students through Twitter polls and reached out to RAs for their experiences.
She found that the results were split half-and-half for students who felt uneasy with having officers in their dorms.
“Digging deeper in. . . this is definitely a campus-wide issue as per the stories and personal experiences I got. There’s a population of students, many who are Black or people of color or sexual assault survivors –– many stories came out about how police have mishandled those cases . . . that don’t feel comfortable around police due to the lack of care for their case,” Dyer said.
Some of the anonymous stories can be found down below:
With half of the responses reporting negative experiences, Dyer and students are advocating for residence life workers to rely on the police only when it is absolutely necessary.
“This demonstration can be seen on campuses like OSU, where police are only in the dorms when called. This is not an impossible task. In fact, it is more odd that BGSU has campus police in dorms so much in the first place,” Dyer said.
For sensitive cases dealing with topics on sexual assault or mental health, Dyer is pushing for more awareness on outside resources such as Unison Health counselors, as well as funding for educational programs.
When asked if the current outlets in place are doing enough for students, Campbell noted that the police agency has aimed to stay connected with those resources.
“If we’re talking specifically about the police side, we work closely with the counseling center . . . Unison is one of the community partners we work closely with because they’re the ones who manage a mobile crisis unit here in Wood County. We work closely with . . . the National Alliance of Mental Illness,” Campbell said.
Despite the close relationships between law enforcement and the mentioned partners, some students are still apprehensive about police handlings in vulnerable situations.
Overall, Campbell does believe that the university police help ensure a safe environment and should remain in the dorms.
However, he is also dedicated to building more connections with the community, especially students.
“I think there’s some true benefits with officers in residence halls,” Campbell said. “We have a program that we’ve been doing for quite some time now. Part of that focus is to introduce officers into new areas on campus, so not only residence halls but . . . academic areas, athletic areas . . . across campus . . . places where students, faculty and staff congregate and the purpose of the program though is to really build that connection with our community."