New Trespass Policy Alleviates Community Concerns

Madeline Stocker, News Editor

The College’s revisions to the No Trespass policy will be instated this semester after months of planning and research on the part of students, community members, alumni and College administration. It marks an achievement that many community organizers believe will galvanize a more cooperative alliance between the College and surrounding community. Amendments to the policy were established over the summer as well as during the 2013 spring semester, will contain several new changes as well as the creation of a Community Advisory Board.

Reshard El-Shair, OC ‘12 and founding member of the One Town Campaign, described the reform to the policy as arduous, especially when certain agents proved uncooperative.

“[The reform] started out with our long-awaited acquisition of the College’s previously-current policy,” said El-Shair. “Originally that was not publicly available, it was very hard to get a hold of, and so we finally got a copy of it about a week or two before classes got out, and so what we ended up coming up with for our proposal basically arose from the comments made by the community made in the first and second community forums that were held last February. Most of the changes were comments or proposals that the community start advocating for at both of those forums.”

The revision of these policies centered on the consensus that the policy proved too castigating for the policy’s offenders. “We discussed ways of making the application of the trespass policy less punitive, and also trying to figure out ways that people who are affected by the policy could seek alternative routes rather than just waiting for their order to expire or for Marjorie Burton, Director of Safety and Security to decide they could come back on campus. In our talks, some of that included doing community service at the art museum, or some other organizations affiliated with the College, just so there could be a more educational aspect to it. If you’re a little kid skateboarding on campus and you get added to the list, you don’t necessarily know that by grinding down the rail you’re causing an actual financial burden to the College,” said El-Shair.

Tita Reed, assistant to the president for community and government relations, believes another aspect of the updated policy to be equally progressive.

“Reviewing the current trespass orders to grant amnesty to those who don’t pose an ongoing threat, I would say that that is the largest and most influential change, because it makes sense, honestly, it’s just that simple. It makes sense.”

Another addition to the No Trespass Policy — the Community Advisory Board — will oversee collaborative efforts related to ongoing review of the trespass policy, youth advancement, public safety, and community relations. Through a number of nominations from local interest groups, including the One Town Campaign, schools, churches and other local agents, the Advisory Board will be constructed of a diverse group of individuals who provide a more balanced adjudication system for the offenders of the policy according to El-Shair, “The Community Board (is) important because it’s putting the effect of the policy in front of the eyes of more people instead of just Safety and Security.”

“The Community Board [is the] centerpiece,” El-Shair said, “because it [stands for] the separation of adjudicating and legislating powers. Originally, all of the power rested in Marjorie Burton’s hands to decide who got off and on the list and essentially all matters of enforcing the list were in her hands, and we didn’t think that was fair at all so we decided to make sure that there was a body that was separate from Safety and Security that decided who got on and off the list.”

Although the main function of the No Trespass policy is to protect College grounds from internal and external transgressors, both Reed and El-Shair believe that the latest updates to the policy will work toward a stronger alliance between College and community.

“I would say that this is a new beginning,” said Reed. “This revised policy — it’s an example of the College and the larger community’s ability to work together on issues that challenge us all.”

El-Shair elaborated similar notions, saying that the reform of the policy signifies the College’s attempts at existing more harmoniously within the Oberlin community.

“A lot of what we heard toward the beginning of the campaign was that people in the town didn’t really feel like the College was cognizant of or willing to acknowledge the special circumstances of community members, and the [past] list was a pretty huge illustration of that. I would say that the creation of the Community Board creates a standing link between the College and the town that allows for further collaboration down the line. [It is] showing that there is a status of difference, but that we’re not beholden to our differences. The old list is a reflection of the College when it’s acting like everyone else; the new list is a reflection of the College when it is actually upholding its progressive and liberal mantras.”