Opinion

The call for mutual respect

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By Mikey Halligan

Managing & Visual Design Editor

A couple of weekends ago on a Saturday night, I was hanging out with some friends at their townhouse along with two or three other people that lived elsewhere. I hadn’t been there for long and I was planning on leaving when a group of three Public Safety officers knocked on both the front and back door, came inside, and had us cornered in the common room.

My friends and I answered all of their questions respectfully and didn’t want to give them a hard time. They asked for our KnightCards. While the officer was taking photos of our KnightCards, we were still getting interrogated by the other two officers, with questions like: “Who said Pub Safe was coming;” and “Who was looking through the window?” We had no idea what they were talking about. I had never been interrogated by Public Safety like this before. I thought the only reason why students would be annoyed and frustrated at Public Safety was because students wanted to have fun and Public Safety was just shutting it down, but I quickly learned there was more to it than that.

After I got my KnightCard back, the officer asked who doesn’t live here. Three other students and I raised our hands. The officer moved closer to us, looked at us with a power-hungry stare in his eyes and told us to “get the f*** out!” That’s when I realized it’s more than just parties getting shut down, it’s the lack of respect that Public Safety has towards the students, and that’s why the students have this lack of respect towards Public Safety.

For the most part, Public Safety and students have been butting heads since I was a freshman, and I’m sure there has been conflict long before my time at St. Michael’s as well. But this semester is like no other. The pandemic has brought challenges that the students, Public Safety and the school as a whole have never had to deal with until this year, and it’s taking a toll on everyone.

I understand that I was in the wrong for being at my friend’s townhouse, but if Public Safety handled the situation with a more understanding and sympathetic tone, then the situation didn’t have to play out as it did. The officers made it seem like a good idea to surround and interrogate us, made me feel like I was a prisoner at my own school.

With tension building up recently around the high number of weekly student COVID violations, and the students getting frustrated over strict and sometimes unclear school rules, patience and overall respect between both parties has recently declined. It is not all Public Safety’s fault, however. Students have to understand that Public Safety is just doing their jobs. There have been a lot of COVID violations so far this semester, some weeks averaging 30 to 40 violations.

I understand why Public Safety and the school is frustrated at the student body. It is important to keep in mind, though, that we aren’t breaking these rules just to break rules. We are doing it because we are struggling. We are struggling mentally and emotionally during a global pandemic that has surpassed a year, and we are being told to not see friends and socialize in ways that support our positive mental health.

Public Safety and the school have said in many different ways that they sympathize with us, understand how we feel, and want us to be on campus. But it is hard to believe when we continue the same overwhelming routine every week.

Something needs to change. There needs to be a more equal level of patience, respect and understanding towards both parties if we want to salvage some kind of positive college experience. If Public Safety shows a little more understanding towards the students, then tension doesn’t need to rise and respect doesn’t have to fall. I’d like to think of Public Safety officers as allies I can turn to, but I need them to respect me and my fellow students and understand what we are going through before I can start thinking that way again.

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