Rebel With a Cause
By Maggie Shields
Published on Friday, February 15, 2013
A grey SUV rolls slowly past you on Tuck Mall. Crap. You know with just a glance that it’s Safety and Security, and you’re not sure if the College permits making snow angels on the street.
Safety and Security often seems omnipresent on this campus — and often at the worst times — but many students, myself included, don’t know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. The officers may get a bad reputation for their disciplinary relationship with students, but a lot of institutions on campus that we take for granted are products of the hard work of these employees, and one woman in particular.
Safety and Security Sergeant Rebel Roberts has been at Dartmouth since 1983, demonstrating decades of commitment to the College and its continually changing student body. As an undergraduate, Roberts said she was disappointed in the safety information she received, lacking specifics and practical instruction. When she discussed this displeasure with the head of security at her college, he decided to offer her a job. Since then, Roberts said that working with college students and helping those in need has been a passion, and that each day at Dartmouth has offered her a different experience.
Roberts is a very busy woman. She works with the Facilities Operations and Management office to monitor access control on campus, which includes any entry into a College-owned building. Every time you swipe your ID card to grab a forgotten book from your dorm between 11s and 12s, or scan into your cluster with only enough energy to collapse into bed, Roberts is there, helping that process work smoothly and safely.
She is a supervisor for that same group of omnipresent officers patrolling campus 24/7 to address various student and faculty-related needs. She has also spent the past several years working with architects to improve safety and efficiency of the campus’s landscape and design.
If you’ve ever walked down Tuck Mall and noticed how open it looks, you’ve seen an example of Robert’s work, intended to make the space safe at night and when shared by cars and pedestrians. Roberts was instrumental in the installation of the blue safety lights, a classic highlight on campus tours.
Roberts investigates all sexual assault and bias incidents reported at the College. To help prevent these situations, Roberts teaches an annual self-defense class that counts towards physical education credit. Any seniors out there looking to cram in one more PE class before graduation should take note, as well as those looking to learn the basics of self-defense. At the end of a lengthy list of responsibilities, Roberts also advises the student-run Dartmouth Emergency Medical Services team. With this busy schedule, Roberts influences much of our campus life without many students even knowing it.
Is all this hard work really necessary, and is it having an impact? Dartmouth seems to have a safe campus. After all, let’s not forget that we are located in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Hampshire. Nevertheless, the Safety and Security team always seems to be busy. Roberts stressed that it is important that students aren’t walking around in a cloud of fear, because our campus is relatively secure. On the other hand, Roberts said she doesn’t want people to let their guard down. The fact of the matter is that Dartmouth, like any institution, has safety issues that could be improved.
When asked if she could change one thing about the College, Roberts, perhaps unsurprisingly, said safety has remained her top priority.
“I would have people stop hurting each other,” she said. “I would want students to learn to respect one another and take personal responsibility.”
Roberts believes that the school can improve security at both the individual and College level if students continue to trust Safety and Security, and if they can feel comfortable coming to Safety and Security for help. Most calls that Safety and Security responds to come from students, and Roberts said she takes pride in this fact that students are able to come to her department when they need help.
Unfortunately, Safety and Security cannot prevent every dangerous situation on campus. Roberts’ least favorite part of the job is when the College loses a student. Such events are difficult for the entire campus, but as Safety and Security are often the first responders in fatal and near fatal situations, the incidents are especially salient. Roberts emphasized that Safety and Security’s top priority is helping, not punishing students. If you find yourself in a dangerous or potentially harmful situation, Safety and Security has resources that can help.
“You are not alone,” Roberts said.
No one would say that the relationship between Safety and Security and students is absolutely perfect, nor would they say that our campus is completely devoid of danger. Maybe the fact that students lack awareness about what the department is doing behind the scenes means that they’re doing their job right. Regardless, Safety and Security is deeply connected to the issues of sexual assault, binge drinking and violence that this campus confronts and debates on a regular basis, and Roberts and her team will be people that deserve a closer look for years to come.