Last Thursday, Campus Police unveiled its new public safety campaign to the dismay of students everywhere. The campaign, which took effect at 12 p.m. on Thursday, is a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, incorporating elements of the “If You See Something, Say Something” program into all campus residence halls and transportation vehicles, namely recurring overhead announcements about suspicious behavior. In the past month, students have noticed and become frustrated with the earlier stages of the transition prior to the campaign’s official announcement — posters asking students to report any suspicious behavior, maintenance staff installing surround-sound speaker systems and Campus Po officers walking around and practicing for their audition to be the voice of the announcement.
Students have had the most to complain about the overhead announcements in most campus spaces. Currently, all residence halls, Local Motion buses and certain sectors of the arboretum have been installed with speakers that blare a variety of repeated reminders between thirty-second intervals including: “Don’t assume it was left by accident. If you see something, say something” and “Wellesley students keep Wellesley students safe. If you see something, say something.” The campaign’s next steps include recording and distributing more announcements, which is projected to take place by the end of the month.
The Wellesley News asked Campus Police what spurred the department to spearhead such a massive, complicated campaign. “It really comes down to the Sev thief. After the thief went after a third Canada Goose parka, we finally admitted to ourselves that it was a serious issue and should be looked into. We decided to avoid doing actual police work and just spend our [the police department’s] entire operating budget on installing state-of-the-art Bluetooth speakers and hiring professional sound technicians for these announcements,” explains Chief of Police Louise Barber.
Dean of Students Shannon Hilton explained further that the College had taken extensive care and meticulous preparation for the unveiling of the program. Hilton says, “We found the problem to be unique, so the solution couldn’t be found in peer institutions — our standard modus operandi is to refer to the tactics, strategies and policies of institutions that we see as similar in size, caliber and what-have-you as Wellesley. So we began looking towards transit systems of major metropolitan areas and athletics stadiums and found that the security announcements was an easy enough thing to replicate on our own campus!”
Positive response to the campaign, however, appears to be slower than expected. Campus Police reported an immediate increase in calls to the station, notably after the first plays of the “Don’t assume it was left by accident” announcement, about abandoned umbrellas and OneCards left on the bus. Students have even found that the repeated announcements — which can be heard in all parts of residence halls, including in their rooms — to be distracting. “It’s a constant drone, and it plays literally for 24 hours. Nobody seems to feel remotely safer with these announcements, except maybe the townies who invade our campus every day. I’ve seen one even whip out their cell phone and hover their fingers above their Campus Po speed dial when I passed them by the lake with my arms full of library books and dining hall scones,” complained Lily Grater ’22.
With the novelty of the new security program, students have been reminded that there are improvements yet to come. Campus Police is anticipating that a variety of announcements will be more palatable to the Wellesley student’s ears and have toyed with the idea of introducing Muzak in the intervals between the announcements. Despite the department’s excitement, the initial overhead costs of the project have effectively wiped their budget for the year, but Barber anticipates that the current budgetary low will be fixed in no time as advertisers are lining up to buy the 10, 15 and 30-second commercial spots the College has listed on Craigslist.