Campo’s afraid of the dark
By Shannon Sollitt
Perhaps the Collegian’s most read section is one we take no part in writing: the Campus Safety Report. Every week, students turn to the report eager to read what people have gotten in trouble for: How many underclassmen drank too much? Who forgot to towel their door while smoking marijuana? What was stolen from right under our noses? Readers giggle, often with a grateful understanding that it could have been them, but also sometimes an amused (or frightened) disbelief that something so absurd could have happened on our turf.
This week, I wanted to hear the best of these stories from the people that respond to them, so I went directly to the source: Campus Safety. Turns out, we’re a predictable bunch. Their stories aren’t too out of line with the ones just described. But they are afraid of the dark, which keeps things interesting.
Why did you join Campus Safety?
Officer Joe Marchese: I have always enjoyed working with people and helping others out. I gained experience as a Clackamas County reserve deputy sheriff, and I was able to bring verbal skills I had learned there to the Campus Safety position. Not to mention Willamette is a great place to work, with great benefits.
Ross Stout, Director: I had previous law enforcement experience and was an Atkinson student at the time the director of Campus Safety position opened. It seemed like a logical step at the time. Twenty-eight years later, I still think it was a good decision.
Officer Carissa Tozer: It gave me the opportunity to relocate back to Salem.
Officer Lisa Caselli: I moved to Salem from Las Vegas where I worked security on the strip. A friend told me about an opening here and I applied and got the job.
Officer Brian Morris: They sent a headhunter to recruit me out of college. It came down to a close decision between coming here or joining the CIA. Willamette’s benefit package, its beautiful campus and friendly people were too much to pass up.
Officer Gabriel Kiersey: I have a friend that works at Willamette and I was told it was an excellent place to work, so I jumped on the opportunity to work here.
Rich Dennis, Associate Director: I retired from the Oregon State Police after 27 years. I was not ready to stay at home, so I applied for the Campus Safety officer position. I worked in that position for about a month, but was moved to the safety education coordinator position because of my experience.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Marchese: I think my favorite part of this job is the community. I really enjoy interacting with the students, staff and guests on a daily basis. I also enjoy being able to get out and patrol the campus and show the community that we are out here to help.
Morris: Dodging small furry animals while flying around campus in the golf cart.
Tozer: The schedule.
Stout: My favorite part of the job is the variety of people I get to work with and the variety of projects that I get to be involved with.
What’s the hardest part about the job?
Marchese: I think the hardest part is seeing the poor decisions some students make in regards to alcohol, then having to deal with it.
Caselli: Being alone on the job is the hardest part for me. When dispatch goes home and I am the only officer on property, that is the hardest part of my job.
Morris: I’m afraid of the dark, so patrolling at night is kind of scary.
Stout: The hardest part of the job is seeing people victimized by others. This takes many forms, from getting a backpack stolen to sexual assault. While it is difficult to know that people have been victimized, it is rewarding to be able to help victims of crime file reports, get connected with resources and begin the healing process.
Tozer: Waking up at 3 a.m.
Dennis: Trying to get people to understand that we’re here to keep people safe so they can enjoy their experience here at Willamette University. I find doors to resident halls propped open so often, and it is frustrating to hear that we as Campus Safety don’t do enough to keep people safe and then find these doors propped.
What kind of calls do you get the most of, and which are the most difficult to deal with?
Caselli: It all depends on the time of year, what end of the week you are on and what time your shift is. Lockouts and vehicle assists are common, like a battery jump or keys locked inside the vehicle. The most difficult to deal with would have to be intoxicated students.
Marchese: For me, one of the most difficult calls to deal with are for students who have consumed way more alcohol than they can handle. This creates all sorts of side issues: drama, alcohol poisoning, which requires a trip to the emergency room, lost property such as cell phones, backpacks, etc., and conflicts with friends and roommates. In regards to the type of call we get most, it is difficult to pin down, but I would have to say lockouts.
Dennis: We get a lot of calls for service, such as lockouts and admits. We also respond to theft complaints— bikes and items that are left out in the library or other places where most students think their belongings are safe. We respond to medical calls, and we also get calls to transport injured or sick students to and from their dorms, to classrooms or even to the emergency room and Bishop. When the weather gets nicer, there are more people on campus, and we get calls about people in buildings. Most of the time the calls are nothing more than a person sitting on campus, maybe having cigarette or just sitting. They aren’t doing anything wrong, but we do go and observe them and sometimes just make small talk with them.
Confronting someone on campus who has been reported as suspicious can be difficult, because we have a lot of break-ins of cars and as a Campus Safety officer you want to catch that person and stop the thefts, but you also have to be very careful as to not violate someone’s rights. But we also have to find out why they are here and if they may need some kind of help or see what they are doing, without being rude or offensive.
What has been your most memorable or interesting experience working with Campus safety?
Marchese: I was working day shift on a nice summer day; I was on bike patrol when I received a call that a child had fallen out a second story window in Matthews hall. I arrived on scene quickly since I was on a bike. The mother was frantic and wanted to pick the girl up; I had to physically stop her as I was calling 911. Moving the little girl would have been a bad thing. As it turned out, she landed (thank God) in soft ground and ended up with a broken rib.
Caselli: The most interesting situation I have ever been involved with was being an adviser on a TaB trip last year with some pretty amazing students. It was a wonderful experience getting to know each other away from Willamette and not in uniform.
Stout: All of the craziest/most interesting calls all involve animals on campus, e.g. the cow I chased across the Quad and through campus, the pig that was let loose inside Lausanne, the squirrel that got electrocuted on the power pole, but was still alive (and smoking) when it landed on ground in front of Alpha Chi Omega, or the student who was bitten by the squirrel he was feeding and called concerned that he could get rabies. (Note: Grey bushy-tailed squirrels do not carry rabies, according to the nurse I talked to at the Marion County Health Department). There have been a few fires, floods and bomb threats over the years, but the animal calls are the most interesting.
Kiersey: In the U-aps, a shower broke during winter break and somehow came on while the occupants were gone, so the hot water was on for weeks. It completely destroyed the entire apartment from the humidity and inches of mold growing throughout the entire place. It was one of the nastiest things I have ever seen in my life.
Dennis: The most rewarding thing that stands out is when we received a call from a female student who had passed out in Smith. I responded and found out that the student had suffered a heart attack. I performed CPR on her until the Fire Department arrived. She was transported to the Salem Hospital, where she found out that she had a heart problem she didn’t know about. She survived, and in a few days was released from the hospital. She and her parents came by the office to thank me. That was a very emotional moment for all of us—a lot of tears and hugs. Unfortunately, she had to leave school because of her condition.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Marchese: Campus Safety Officers are people too. We are here to help the community as well as enforce University policies.
Dennis: The students, staff and faculty at Willamette are really great and I enjoy being a part of the Willamette University family.
Stout: May of this year will mark my 34th year in law enforcement. I continue to enjoy helping people and protecting them from harm. I look forward to several more years of serving the Willamette community.
Morris: My favorite color is purple and I collect LEGO mini figures. Go Red Sox!