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Tuesday, June 06, 2023 — Houston, TX

Event security needs to be bolstered

Photo courtesy Luke Han

By Luke Han     4/11/23 11:58pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

As a large and diverse community, Rice University offers numerous opportunities for students to socialize and have fun outside the classroom. Some of the more notable events are the student-run public parties. However, in recent years, there has been a trend and movement to push for increased safety at such social events. While I acknowledge that maintaining tradition is important, it is time for Rice University to take more proactive approaches to ensure the safety of its students at social events such as publics.

At public parties, security should be a top priority. Unfortunately, recent incidents have highlighted the failures of current security measures. The combination of alcohol, a tight-knit community and tickets creates a challenging environment for security at publics. While the ticketing measures were implemented with goals of limiting capacity at publics, the actual execution of the ticketing program has created rifts between students and the volunteers running such social events. Having attended the majority of publics and volunteered for the Wiess College and Martel College publics, it’s clear that security volunteers, college socials and coordinators struggle with enforcing the security rules that protect attendees. As an example, at the Martel public, there were large groups of students let in through the side doors by a security volunteer. The group then proceeded to sneak up into the Martel sundeck with assistance by the same security volunteer. On that same morning, it was communicated to security volunteers that a large group of Lovetteers on the third floor forced their way through RUPD officers and security volunteers onto the sundeck. Besides the fact that such actions are unfair to the students that legitimately got tickets, such failures by volunteers in security roles present a great and life-threatening danger to students. 

If security student volunteers are to continue, there is a need for them to be bold, loud and courageous in challenging people. As an example, the most outrageous violation I ever witnessed working security was with two students and the same volunteer that opened the side doors at Martel to allow groups to enter. The two students and volunteer, working together to take a filled water cooler from the first floor, snuck past the RUPD officer and Martel coordinator, spilling water all over the stairs while doing so. The consequences of failures in access control should not occur; students should be proactive in safety and maintaining a secure environment to protect the Rice population from hostile forces. 

One possible solution to this issue is to increase the presence of security personnel at these events. Rice University should consider hiring more security guards or partnering with local law enforcement to ensure that these parties are properly staffed. While Rice currently has its police force at publics, they are underutilized as students continue to break through security. There is a need for Rice to bolster its police presence by hiring more RUPD officers or bringing in additional Houston Police Department officers and Harris County constables to protect students at Rice publics. Furthermore, deterrents to would-be troublemakers should be considered, including drug and bomb sniffing dogs along with searches of event attendees. In addition to being deterrents, such initiatives would also give students peace of mind knowing that there are trained professionals on hand to protect them from the many dangers present at publics. While some may contend that such measures will choke many campus traditions to the point of elimination, it is important to note that historically, traditions have successfully been adjusted for safety without sacrificing the meaning of the traditions. For instance, the spirit of Beer Bike today continues despite the elimination of beer from the chugging component of the race, with no sacrifices to the energy and festivities associated with Rice’s most iconic tradition. And at Texas A&M, the Aggie Bonfire since the 1999 collapse has been modified to be much smaller, yet safer than its predecessors, showing that traditions can be maintained without sacrificing safety. 

Rice University must continue their proactive approach to ensure the safety of its students at public parties. While such measures may weaken existing traditions or seem inconvenient, such sacrifices must be made to ensure the safety of every single student, no matter the hazard. These measures are a necessary step to ensure that students can have fun and socialize in a safe and secure environment. By prioritizing the safety of its students, Rice University can foster a stronger sense of community and create a more vibrant campus culture.

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