Do you ‘know your rights?’

Elizabeth Worthington, News Editor

In an effort to increase transparency between students and both campus and local law enforcement, Bucknell Student Government (BSG) held an event titled Know Your Rights. During the forum, students were able to ask questions to both the University’s Chief of Public Safety Steve Barilar and Chief of Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department (BVRPD)Paul Yost. The event was held in Trout Auditorium on Nov. 29.

Students were given the opportunity to submit questions anonymously ahead of time through a Google form or on notecards to be read aloud during the event. Katie Chambers ’17, chair of BSG’s Student Advocacy Committee and organizer of the event, read the questions and led the discussion.

Chambers commented on the importance of events like these in order to keep students knowledgeable about what they can and cannot do on campus.

“A lot of college-age students tend to think they are invincible or above the law and nothing can happen to them on campus. However, this is not true and if they knew what their rights were, when they got into a situation where they wanted to exert those rights they would feel more comfortable,” Chambers said.

“It was information that I wanted to know but never had the opportunity to ask and it clarified a lot of the rumors I’ve heard,” Abby Joseph ’19 said.

The information was useful to many, especially those charged with the duty of educating other members of organizations such as fraternities and sororities.

“As future standards chair for my sorority, it is important for me to understand the risks involved for us. It’s important information for me to know in order to serve as the bridge between the student handbook and my sisters,” Emily Clay ’19 said.

The proximity of the University to the local Lewisburg community allows for occasional uncertainty as to where Public Safety’s jurisdiction ends and BVRPD’s begins. Yost and Barilar reviewed the jurisdictions of their respective departments. Important clarifications included the fact that BVRPD has jurisdiction over the entire University, not just the area surrounding it, and any private residencies not owned by the University are not under Public Safety’s jurisdiction. Public Safety also has jurisdiction over any crime committed on campus, including those by individuals who do not attend the University.

The amnesty policy was also reviewed, as it was unclear to several students. Barilar explained the distinction between the state’s amnesty policy and the University’s. The state’s policy applies to both BVRPD and Public Safety and is commonly referred to as the “good Samaritan policy.” The policy serves to protect underage individuals who call on behalf of another individual for help in the event of an alcohol-related illness or life-threatening incidence. The other policy unique to the University is called the “medical amnesty policy” and was enacted in response to individuals more concerned about the implications of their actions than the benefits of asking for assistance in times of distress. Although medical amnesty prevents underage students from receiving a citation, Barilar said that further action, such as a referral to the Dean’s office, is taken depending on “the totality of the circumstances.” 

A few questions were posed about what constitutes an “open container.” Yost described it as any sort of container with which the seal has been broken and has alcohol inside; open containers are not allowed to be held in any public place or within five feet of a public place, even if one is on private property. He explained how the main factor is visibility, and people usually only get in trouble if they are calling attention to themselves.

Yost and Barilar also explained their different rules for preliminary breath tests (PBT). While Yost affirmed that there is no situation where an individual can be forced to give a PBT, Barilar said that it is a violation of the University’s student code of conduct to refuse a PBT. Yost reminded the audience that even though individuals can refuse the PBT, they can still be cited without the test if there is enough evidence. Both Yost and Barilar said that the PBT is primarily used as a tool to determine whether or not an individual needs further medical attention.

With the recent increase in the decriminalization of recreational marijuana, students in attendance wondered how Lewisburg lawmakers plan to deal with this issue. Yost said that they will wait until legislation is passed in Pennsylvania to deal with the ramifications. Barilar explained how any university that receives federal money must abide by federal law, so even if Lewisburg decriminalizes the drug, the University may not do so until a federal law is passed.

Other topics covered included refusing ambulance rides, purchasing for and possessing alcohol in the presence of underage individuals, getting rides from Public Safety at night, no-contact orders, and room searches.

Barilar also discussed the types of racial sensitivity training that Public Safety officers receive, but affirmed that it’s “not enough” and that he learns the most from having personal conversations with students of diverse backgrounds.

Both officers commented on fostering trust and increasing interactions with the students.

“We just wish people would come to us more often, we really do,” Barilar said.

Yost said BVRPD is “always open to interactions with the community.”

“I think it is important to meet and interact with both chiefs because it makes a personal connection that in the event you need help from someone, you now know a name and a face,” Chambers said.

“We are always going to be the bad face but you also have to trust us. Our goal is for you to walk down the graduation line and earn your diploma. We want you to have a happy and healthy four years here,” Barilar said.

Associate Dean of Students Dan Remley considered the event a success.

“Events created for students to interact with key administrators, including our partners from the Borough of Lewisburg, is an opportunity to build upon our relationships, increase our understanding of topics important to the participants, and as Chief Barilar stated, to build trust between and among all of us. I would add that I am grateful to BSG for their role in responding to student concerns and fostering an environment for honest and open dialog,” Remley said.

“Many of these rumors [that circulate campus] are false and lead to more people getting in trouble because they don’t know their rights,” Vice President of Administration for BSG Meg Belinsky ’18 said.

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