This past week, I was shocked when asked to leave my backpack outside of our campus’s favorite convenient store. The sign outside that read, “Coats, backpacks, purses, etc. are not permitted in Kate’s Corner Store,” was unexpected on our safe and friendly campus.
The new rule came into effect after a shoplifting incident involving a backpack. Currently, the Student Welfare Committee is determining whether this policy is the best solution and whether or not it will be in effect for the entire year, according to general manager of Bon Appétit, Julie Severance.
Being asked to leave my backpack outside brought me back to my days in middle school and high school, when some of the local gas stations put up signs only allowing one or two teens to enter the store at a time.
To me, the sign sent the negative message that we are not trusted as a student body to resist the temptation of our sticky fingers. While I complied without hesitation, it left me with a lot of questions and mixed feelings; I hope that the new “no backpacks” policy does not become a permanent change.
Since the ban of backpacks, I have noticed an inconsistency in the policy being enforced. Sometimes backpacks are left outside and sometimes they make their way inside. While jackets are not allowed inside of the store—I mean, I suppose it hasn’t quite reached the negative 40-degree weather yet, so it’s clearly too early to wear them anyhow—I have seen many students wear their coats inside.
The inconsistency of the policy is troubling because students may feel singled out when they are told that they need to leave their belongings outside. A student who was asked to take off their backpack may wonder why they are being less trusted than the individual who made it in without comment. At times when several students are entering the store at once, this rule may be too difficult to enforce.
In addition to cultivating anxiety, setting aside belongings is an inconvenience. During the afternoon brown paper bag lunch rush, the amount of possessions outside of Kate’s Corner Store could easily become a fire hazard!
Imagine the chaos if a student burned popcorn. The alarm would have students tripping and hurdling over the coats and backpacks outside the store. While great practice for track athletes, this policy could lead to mayhem! Lives would be at stake!
Taking off jackets in order to enter the store will be a nuisance during winter term. After 30 minutes of layering on clothing before venturing out in the brutal Wisconsin weather, who could blame them for calling it a nuisance? Nearly frost-bitten and in a hurry for their next obligation, students will sacrifice food before sacrificing their warm fuzzy jackets. Even more deaths! Death by starvation! How cruel!
Jokes about winter apparel and burnt popcorn induced fire alarms aside, the new policy is in extreme discord with the Lawrence University Honor Code that we uphold with so much pride. One of our big selling points to prospective students on Admissions tours is how safe our possessions are anywhere on campus.
The rules in Warch send mixed signals to our student body. If we can be trusted to leave our belongings outside of Andrew Commons while going to dinner, we should be able to trust each other not to steal from the Corner Store only one floor above.
The new policy is not congruent with the trust students have for each other on campus. In fact, it may lead some students to unnecessarily question whether their possessions are safe when left downstairs.
It is unfortunate that the Lawrence staff has been put in the difficult position of finding a solution to prevent repeat offenses without inconveniencing students. While the new rule regarding Kate’s Corner Store was set with good intent, I think it has a lot of problems.
It is also unfair to the employees at Kate’s Corner Store that they must be on the lookout for forbidden belongings and potential shoplifters. As students, it is unfair that we are put in a position of being watched and punished for a single individual’s misbehavior.
The choices we make as students do not only affect ourselves, but also our peers and the staff that work hard to make Lawrence such a great place. It is important to keep ourselves and our peers accountable while interacting within our community because a single, minor incident can affect the whole student body and staff.
I hope that the new policy opens the eyes of students to how important the personal integrity of each member of the community is, and that our campus continues to thrive in our ability to trust each other.
If you have any ideas about a more effective solution than the “no backpacks” rule, or any opinions to share regarding the topic, contact Julie Severance or attend the weekly Student Welfare Committee meeting on Tuesdays at 11:10 a.m. in the Warch Campus Center’s Arthur Vining Davis Room.