College and the Cops

Audrey Gilliam

Even the most law-abiding citizens have felt their heartdrop into their shoes, muttered silent curses and frantically racked their brain for potential offenses upon seeing the familiar black and white sedans cruising up Lancaster. The police. The cops. Regardless of what you choose to call them (and there are a variety of undeniably less pleasant names), the police in Radnor Township and surrounding areas seem to be omnipresent. But if the mission of these officers of the law is “to serve the best interests of all [their] residents by providing and maintaining a secure environment” why do we feel such fear? And why do Villanova students, in particular, seem to clash with these uniformed men and women so frequently?

Dean of Students Paul Pugh attributes this apprehension and the perceived regularity of contact to the difference in lifestyle of Villanova students and their suburban neighbors: “Many of our students like to stay up until two or three o’clock in the morning, watching TV or listening to music with their friends. When these students move in next to working individuals, who often need to get to the office by eight o’clock in the morning, minor problems can occur.”

While this rationale is undeniably logical, it does not serve as a complete justification to some Villanova students who claim to simply be enjoying their “college experience.” “I understand their position you can’t let kids run rampant,” said junior Marissa Bataille. “It makes sense to take a kid that has passed out from drinking too much to the hospital, but it’s unnecessary to walk into a house and arrest people at parties. I think that the threat of being arrested is scary enough for most students.”

Sophomore Tim Lawson expressed a similar sentiment: “This is obviously a very rich suburban area and it seems that the police have nothing to do besides pull people over for stupid stuff. I just wish that they could lay off of us a bit because we’re not much of a threat and we don’t affect the neighborhood very much. We’re already locked down by Public Safety enough.”

The cooperation of Villanova Public Safety and area police forces is a concern for some students, who feel that they are being punished twice for their offenses. The Villanova Code of Conduct, however states “it is Villanova’s policy to communicate on a frequent and on-going basis with local police officials with respect to any crimes engaged in by students at off-campus locations.” Dean Pugh does not view this communication as the infliction of a double blow, but instead said, “It takes more than 120 credits to graduate from this institution. We expect our students to be good Villanovans, and that includes a responsibility to serve as ambassadors of the community and good citizens.”

Pugh stresses that in the five years that he has served as Dean of Students interactions between law enforcement and Villanova students “has improved each year.” Radnor police statistics also support this assertion: according to the Radnor Township website, “there was a drop in acts of vandalism, underage drinking, disorderly conduct and incidents of DUI from 2001 to 2002. The Township’s low crime rate has won it recognition in Philadelphia magazine as one of the safest places to live in the Philadelphia Region.”

However a question remains: Do these statistics appease Villanova students who are trying to find a place for some good ol’ college fun? While answers would vary, some students have expressed a resounding “no.” It appears, therefore, that these two groups will remain enmeshed in an unfortunate Catch-22, with no clear resolution in sight. As junior Caitlin Prentice said, “It’s great that they’re there for you when they’re on your side, but when they’re not, it sucks.”