College security as well as individual students' rights to self-protection, defense and respect became issues at Santa Fe University of Art and Design recently. SFUAD Director of Facilities and Security Peter Romero held meetings with students dwelling on campus last month to discuss changes in security protocols at the private institution that serves nearly 800 students; around 70 percent SFUAD students live on campus.
Ostensibly, Romero held the meetings to engender and encourage mutual accountability among security staff and students, but one of the big issues that manifested itself during the course of the dialogues involved the use of pepper spray and consequently, Romero's attitude to those on-campus who might possess or use the substance as a way to defend themselves.
While the spray was banned for on-campus use at the time of the meetings in February, Romero told students that a change of policy was in the works; enrollees at the Santa Fe campus were told to keep—rather than turn in—pepper spray in their possession until the update in protocols was announced. Further, the head of security at the school indicated he was speaking with a local vendor to offer SFUAD students a discount on the self-defense weapon.
Those demonstrations of concern didn't stop Romero from speaking in what some students consider a disrespectful tone during the course of the discussions.
In the SFUAD online newspaper, The Jackalope, Film major Ashley Crandall said she asked Romero during one of the campus meetings why she couldn't use the pepper spray she carries on her keychain. Romero responded speculatively and allegedly said, “What if you decide to be a bitch and pepper spray your boyfriend in the face?” Other students interviewed for the article in the student-run online newspaper also indicated they had reservations about the level of respect shown by campus security when dealing with undergraduates attending the school.
The head of school security was later quoted in SFUAD's student publication as having regretted the comment. Meanwhile officials at the university say the pepper spray policy has now been revised. SFUAD Public Relations Manager Loren McDaniel told Weekly Alibi, “We take student concerns seriously and thoughtfully reviewed the pepper spray policy during the past few weeks. The administration has decided to allow small containers of pepper spray (3 ounces or smaller) on campus.”
So far there is no word on whether Romero will face disciplinary action for his alleged transgression, although the website of the Center for Online Reporting Accountability notes that the author of the Jackalope article, Charlotte Renken contends Romero has a “reputation on campus for not respecting students.” The same article also reports that while the reaction to Romero's words has been “incendiary” and a student group, ColleXion, has been formed to deal with the situation, Renken tempered her remarks by telling CORA, “... we can work to fix the problems on campus,” further stating that progress will happen when administrators realize “this isn't just a bunch of students complaining … this is more than young adult angst.”
Finally, the Interim President of SFUAD, Dr. Maria Puzzierro also sought to ameliorate the current situation, telling Weekly Alibi, “The safety and security of our students is a top priority. We encourage open dialogue with our students, faculty and staff on ways we can continue to ensure we share a safe and thriving campus community.”