CMC Hires Private Security, Drawing Mixed Reactions

Graphic by Molly Antell

Claremont McKenna College is contracting with a private security group to employ a director of public safety and several CMC-only security officers who will promote safety on campus, assist with event planning, and investigate thefts, among other responsibilities.

Brian Weir, the incoming director of public safety, works at private security firm Allied Universal and is a former Air Force commander. Weir will start later this month and work during the days. He will hire two or three other security officers to trade off night shifts starting next academic year, said Sharon Basso, CMC’s vice president of student affairs.

The CMC-only security will not replace Campus Safety officers, Basso said. Instead, the public safety officers will “amplify and enhance what Campus Safety is already doing.”

Basso, who announced Weir’s hiring in an email Thursday, said she and other deans have been on-call most nights to respond to student concerns or emergencies, but “we can’t do that, continually.” The new officers will fill a similar role.

Basso hopes having several CMC-only officers will contribute to a “campus environment where our students get to know the folks that are trying to help keep us safe.”

She said dozens of CMC students were involved in determining whether there was a need for a greater security presence on campus, including resident assistants and members of ASCMC.

Discussions started nearly two years ago and students expressed consistent support for such a role, Basso said. Last year, Allied Universal visited campus and spent hours talking with Campus Safety and CMC students, she added.

“This is not something we would have pursued if students weren’t supportive of it,” Basso said.

Former ASCMC President Sami Malas CM ’19, who was involved in many of the discussions, said he thinks CMC-specific officers will be helpful.

CMC-specific officers might be more well-versed in the college’s policies than Campus Safety, Malas said, “because [Campus Safety has] to manage the five policies at all five campus and understand that they are different.”

Nicholas Mendez CM ’21 said he’d heard of the program in the past but doesn’t know much about it. He doesn’t think Campus Safety or the new officers will be utilized much at night, but thinks additional security could be beneficial.

“Just having more eyes around at night could help people feel safer walking around and help prevent abuse of CMC’s alcohol policy,” he wrote in a message to TSL. “The only concern that I have is that it may change the atmosphere of the campus, but I hope and believe that it most likely won’t,” he added.

Julie Tran CM ’20 was unaware of the plan to hire additional security officers, and believes CMC could find better ways to spend its money, but thinks more security couldn’t hurt.

“I also think because we have a ‘wet’ campus, the school is more liable for what happens to students,” Tran wrote in a message to TSL. “With the increased security, [CMC] can better cover its tracks.”

Tess van Hulsen CM ’19 hadn’t heard about hiring more security until Thursday, but thinks having closer relationships with campus security officers is a good idea.

“Sometimes [Campus Safety] feels too impersonal, as I’ve never really encountered the same officers more than once [or] know their names,” she wrote in a message to TSL. “I think there is a sense of security/safety in having officers you know by name.”

But Ben Culberson CM ’20, who also learned about the initiative for the first time Thursday, has some qualms.

“It does concern me a little bit that they’re private security,” he wrote in a message to TSL. “I just generally don’t feel comfortable with more security than we maybe need.”

Students aren’t the only ones with misgivings. A person employed by CMC, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for job safety, is worried that “an additional security presence on campus will add to a sense of campus militarization and is likely to make some students feel unsafe.”

Basso said discussions about additional security were “not a response to the Athenaeum scenario,” during which student protesters blocked access to a talk by conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald last April. But the anonymous employee is skeptical.

“The planning may have begun before the Heather Mac Donald incident, but I find it hard to believe that the incident is not a significant factor in how the plans have been developed,” the employee said.

Jaimie Ding contributed reporting.

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