Thursday, October 25, 2007

College Life

Campus Security: Are They The Real Threat?

By Priya Joshi

The line between protecting civilians and violating civil rights has grown thinner with time. With such laws as the Patriot Act, many Americans and others throughout the world are beginning to wonder if their government is helping or hurting them.

In a recent incident at Florida University, campus security detained, tasered and arrested Andrew Meyer, a student after he asked Senator John Kerry why he didn’t contest the 2004 election during a question and answer session. Kerry did not answer the student’s question, causing him to get emotional and he continued to question Kerry. Although Meyer never got violent or out of control, campus security seized, handcuffed and tasered him. Students across the nation were outraged at the reaction from campus security and demanded explanations.

Alan Cano, a 20-year-old sophomore at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., was one of the many angered by the situation. “It really makes you think that we’re actually living in a police state. Andrew Meyer’s rights were completely violated for the entire nation to see, and still no one did anything about it,” says Cano. “His fellow classmates even laughed it off when it first started happening. This kind of thing is serious, especially now. The powers that be need to know their limits and clearly the campus security at FU didn’t.”

Many young adults agree with Cano on the topic, stating strongly that Meyer’s freedom of speech was so blatantly imposed upon that it was insulting to their generation.

“It was as if the police just weren’t taking the kids seriously,” says Aimee Conover, a 19-year-old college student. “He asked an important question that a lot of people had been wondering since the 2004 election and his question deserved an answer. The police just shut him up to make things easier for John Kerry, which isn’t what a politician should be about. Kerry should be ashamed. Even I want to know why Kerry didn’t contest to the 2004 election when Bush won!”

Such a sensitive topic is bound to bring an immense amount of opposition. Surprisingly, some students don’t mind the fact that campus security has the authority to carry out such acts.

“Think about what happened at Virginia Tech earlier this year,” says Abigail Belford, a 23-year-old college graduate. “If that were to occur again I’m sure all of the people opposed to the tasering would change their minds. Security of any kind needs to be ready and able to take on anything at any moment and I think that the campus security at Florida University did exactly that. Who knows what could have happened. Andrew Meyer could have gone crazy in a split second and nobody would have been prepared. Our world isn’t that safe anymore. You can’t just put trust in everyone.”

Belford addresses a crucial topic. Is it possible to be too safe? “Tiananmen Square in1989 is a perfect example of how out of control something like this can become,” says Cano. “Countless innocent protestors were killed because they lived in a police state. They were not allowed to voice their opinions and had to give their lives to prove a point. Is that what our American democracy is aiming for? I know it’s not a great comparison and that Tiananmen was far more serious, but this is just the beginning of what could possibly be forming.”

It is scary to think that your rights could be completely stripped from you by authority, especially your right to live, but perhaps the issue lies a little deeper.

“I think it has more to do with when people of authority should be able to exercise their power as opposed to focusing on all of the times that they have done so incorrectly,” says Belford. “For example, campus security should be allowed to carry weapons such as guns or tasers to use when a Virginia Tech incident occurs, but they should not be used in situations such as Florida University. If people would address the appropriate times for action to be used instead of bickering about when it was used inappropriately, then maybe we would be a little safer.”

Belford’s approach to looking towards the future instead of the past may work for her, but for many people across the nation, especially those at Florida University and other college students, the time to demand their rights is now, not later.

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