An obituary to Campus Patrol, 1969-2017

Since 1969, Campus Patrol has been one of the longest running and largest student run organizations in Vassar’s history. Yet in May of 2017, after 48 years of history and service, Patrol will be laid to rest.

Patrol was birthed in the fall of 1969 after members of the Vassar Community expressed concern that the campus was not secure. The student body felt there needed to be a group of vigilant students to help ensure the safety of others. Campus Patrol filled the void and adopted its unofficial motto, “to protect people like you from people like us.” The isolationist mentality aptly describes the social status of Patrol for 2017. Patrol has been criticized by some members of the student body for seeming unapproachable. The criticism is valid; Patrol was created to serve the Vassar community at its deficits, and no community wants to be reminded of its faults, especially not when the reminder manifests itself at a Patrol desk every Thursday through Sunday holding a radio and performing rounds. There are some students in favor of Patrol and some against it, but every community member has an opinion about it. Patrol at its core was to serve as a liaison between students and security, and to be a watchdog for other students. Campus Patrol has been most for reporting medical emergencies, responding to disruptions and addressing safety concerns within the dorms. Through their diligent actions, they have found individuals that were in critical condition–conditions severe enough that if the patrollers had not located them, some would not be with us today. The Patrollers rarely receive proper recognition from the greater community for their efforts. Patrollers simply trudge ahead with their jobs. They are not relieved of their responsibilities either. In a sense, a Patroller will always act as a Patroller, even after they turn in their radios for the night. The job instills a sense of responsibility that remains with the individual long past their tenure at Vassar. Often times when the evening Supervisor (Unit 5) signs off for the night, the feeling of isolation further hits home. At 2:00 in the morning, the Unit walks alone back to their dorm. Patrollers are not concerned with the sleep deprivation, the social martyrdom of weekend exclusion or the lack of appreciation. Instead, they focus their energy on ensuring the continued wellbeing of others. Patrollers are trained to not be concerned with the social consequences, their own reputation or preserving a relationship, but instead are trained to make the hard decisions. A Patroller will never hesitate to call EMS if an individual is severely intoxicated, or hesitate to perform a noise complaint, even though many members of the student body would.

The elimination of Patrol and the creation of the new Community Fellows Position is something that the Office of Residential Life has pushed on the current Patrol employees. The current Student Supervisors were informed of Patrol’s termination in a meeting that lasted an hour. When the Supervisors left, it was painfully clear to them that the decision of Patrol’s future was made without them. In a world without Patrol, will Vassar students feel comfortable if Security walks through the bathrooms in search of individuals in medical need? How is a diminished Security force supposed to pick up the loose ends, such as dorm presence, that Patrol will leave behind? Will the individuals serving as Community Fellows hesitate to make the tough decisions out of social fear and anxiety that comes with knowing that there will be future interactions with the individual? These questions lead to a larger realization within the Vassar Community. It is because Patrol masquerades as the “bad guy” that everyone else can serve as the “good guys,” including the administration. Instead of fostering a culture of peer to peer accountability, the administration should demonstrate their willingness to crack down on unwanted and damaging behaviors with new policies and procedures. With peer to peer accountability, the administration strategically passes off the responsibility (and the liability) to the student body at Vassar and liberates themselves from those tasks. Despite these concerns, the wheels are set in motion and Patrollers must face the fact that Campus Patrol will be no more.

In May of this year, the Patrol Office will close down permanently but the memories will still live on. Patrol would like to thank all of the Supervisors that came before us. You all have taught us everything that we know and one article will never do justice to the amount of hours and work you all have dedicated to this organization. In a final endearing note to your service, the final radio transmission may sound something like this, “Unit 5 to all past and present Patrollers, we thank you for your service and we are signing out for the rest of our nights. How do you all read this transmission?”

“5 by(e) 5.”

26 Comments

    • Jason Albertson, campus patrol, honored to have served with D. Bates and L. Piro, 1982.
      Most recently completed a several year work assignment as the behaviorist component (LCSW) of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office, as the designated psychiatric emergency team responder. Ran an unmarked radio car, responsible for hostage negotiations consultation, high element suicide prevention and responding to individuals who were at risk of violent and tragic outcomes when mentally ill individuals come into contact with law enforcement.

      Law enforcement has a protocol for final sign-off. Might be similar as this: “KGK453 to all present and past units: Patrol operations to cease as of 1400 hrs, May 1, 2017. Be advised this is permanent EOW for this service, all units remand to status 10-7, end of watch.

      All members, past and present are thanked for their service. to Campus Patrol” KGK453 clear.

      • Let’s hope that the final sign off, if there is one, is recorded and posted on YouTube. Along with a video of the supervisor’s office. Is it still in the basement of Taylor Hall? Is the reproduction of Rembrandt ‘s painting “The Nightwatch” still hanging on the wall?

  1. Vassar & Campus Patrol Supervisor alumna, class of ’88. I’ve often wondered whether Patrol still existed. I’m pleased to know that it carried on for all of these years and saddened to hear of its impending demise. We did encourage a tongue-in-cheek “us vs them” culture, but we loved our college and our fellow students, and there is no question that we made a positive impact. Thank you for writing this article and capturing some of the experience.

  2. I loved being a patroller, and 25 years later, I still feel emboldened to step in and help in situations that freeze people around me in bystander mode. On and off duty, I felt safe anywhere out on campus at any hour. Those hours under the winter sky taught me to tell time by Orion, to know the night birds by their hours and songs. I wish the Community Fellows all the best in their efforts, and I hope they come away with memories as fond in their own ways as mine are.

    • Thank you for sharing and it is very empowering to hear that the skills you practiced in Patrol have stayed with you. It is encouraging to know this as the last group of Patrol supervisors begin to trickle out due to graduation, thank you Sarah Avery.

  3. I still have my Patrol shirt, though the holes are getting severe… Kept meaning to see if I could replace it… Odin signing off

    • Hey Theo “Odin”,
      Glad to hear that you still have a token of the memories you made while still at Patrol. We current supervisors will cherish our shirts for future memories. Thanks for the read!

  4. I wish this article had more context for those of us alums who’d like to know how this came about. When did Patrol stop being viewed as a positive force by the campus at large, and why?

  5. How sad. Although I only did campus patrol as a fill in, I always found it to be a fun and occasionally vital function. I was the campus EMT from 1975-1978 and always looked forward to helping the good Mug patrons find their way back to the dorms at 2 AM. Drinking age was 18 then, of course. KGK 453. Main Gate out.

  6. I did CP from 1978 until graduating in 1982. Pax, the Patrol’s German Shepard, was a key and vital member of the Patrol for so many years and loyally accompanied Senior Patrol Supervisor Lou Piro. The legacy of the Patrol is legendary and disbanding it is heresy! I say it is time for all Alums to step up and petition for a reversal to this decision.

  7. I met my husband when we were both Campus Patrol supervisors in 81-82. This makes me incredibly sad. Back then, the Patrol supervisor was Unit 1. We can both do the whole radio check: “KGK-453, Unit 1 to all Campus Patrol Units, please stand by for a radio check.”
    Campus Patrol was an amazing sub-culture of the campus – even then, reviled by some while celebrated by others.
    Will there be an alumnae magazine article? I know both of us will want to contribute. There are so many stories.
    Anne LeVeque ’82 (and David Bates ’82)

      • Sally, in our day, the TH booths were TH1 and TH2, I think. One on the path between Raymond Ave., and one on the circle. The booth at the bottom of the hill by the TA bridge was Unit 8, and the one at the top of the hill was TA1.
        I remember one night when Polo was working TA1, and several of us took a break in one of the TAs, and had some pie. I put the radio on the table button-down, so our entire conversation was not only broadcast, but jammed our frequency so no one else could talk on the radios! Polo knew which TA had pie, and came dashing in and said, “Guys!! Your radio!” We all got quiet and looked at the radio. As soon as I picked it up I heard, “Unit 1 to Unit 3, 25 at Unit 8 right away.”

    • Campus Patrol was fertile ground for important, lasting friendships. I also met my spouse on campus patrol, during my first week at Vassar in fact – Sept 1977. (It took until the 1990s for us to be a couple and until 2013 to be legally married, but…) My wife was the chief supervisor after Lou Piro & Pax. Our cohort created the motto, “Protecting People Like You From People Like Us” by putting it on t-shirts. We managed to have a whole lot of fun while losing sleep and keeping things in order at night. And while there was a whole lot of Patrol shenanigans over the years, we all seem to have grown into rather responsible, productive adults. I’m sorry to hear that the tradition and the tiny counterculture is ending. Are “Community Fellows” replacing [what used to be] White Angels?
      So many stories indeed, Anne!
      — Priscilla Butler ’81 and Nina Puglia ’80

  8. I too was a campus patroller (1981 to 1985) and served as “Unit 1” and director in my later years. Those were good times. Many friends, many laughs, many beautiful moonlit walks through snow-covered paths, a few fleeting moments of exciting on-foot chases, and much pride. “KGK-453, Unit 1 out.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *