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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Puppy training and campus security

    Ilove Rian Seacrest. Besides being close to the name of the multimedia conglomerate who is the host of “”American Idol,”” it is also the name of my new puppy.

    Of all the things we did to prepare for the new pup, I found reading the dog-training books to be the most interesting. They explain that training dogs is like housebreaking Paula Abdul: They don’t understand what you’re saying, and they bite when you play rough with them.

    When trying to train a dog or Paula not to, oh, pee on the carpet, punishing them will often just lead them to want to hide their indiscretion. But let’s imagine that while Rian is breaking the rule of peeing in the house, someone pulls a gun on him. Does he make a doggy yelp and get our attention, even though this may get him in trouble?

    That protracted and awkward metaphor, if not interesting, serves a purpose other than mentioning my new uber-cute dog. Campus security is not unlike training an unwieldy, drunk college puppy.

    After reports that the fine men and women at the Tucson Police Department will now be sharing information about red tags with the UA, it’s hard not to think of all the ways this new policy could backfire.

    Think about this example from real-life experience: You are a typical college student holding a gathering for friends. The party is not loud and your neighbors barely notice it. But suddenly a fight breaks out and an uninvited guest pulls a gun.

    The first instinct is to call the police. But there are underage drinkers at the party – and no matter if everything else is legal and fine, you will get a red tag violation. Then the red tag is reported to the Dean of Students Office. Because of their draconian enforcement of minor crimes, a serious violent crime might go unreported.

    When an acquaintance of mine was in this exact situation, he chose not to call the police for fear of punishment for the lesser crime of underage drinking. Knowing a red tag was inevitable if the police were called, but that the dangerous situation might resolve itself, he chose the latter.

    Alternatively, imagine this: A young woman is raped at a party, but she had a few drinks and is under 21. According to the FBI, only an estimated 37 percent of rapes are reported – but imagine if there are further barriers to reporting the crime. Studies at other universities have shown that rape victims who were drinking illegally are even more hesitant to report an already stigmatizing event.

    It is easy to imagine the problems with enforcement-heavy campus security. When the punishments become so intense for the least dangerous of transgressions, students may resist reporting serious crimes when they do occur.

    It comes down to priorities: Is our priority legitimate safety or enforcement of every little law? Do we want to ensure that all freshmen are alcohol-free, or do we want to make sure that their experiences are free from gun violence and rape?

    Prioritizing means we should question the laws our representatives pass and our public officials enforce. Essentially, laws are passed to ensure social order and prevent some members of society from exploiting or harming others.

    Clearly, turning 21 is not a sudden change like Ashley Simpson’s nose job – it’s just a birthday three years after becoming an adult. So why should TPD, the University of Arizona Police Department and the UA enforce this rule with such intense vigilance and punishments when much more serious crimes are occurring?

    I’m not arguing that we ignore the law – but our officers can be reasonable about enforcement. There is simply no reason that the UAPD and TPD need to cite every single underage drinker, particularly those drinking in an otherwise responsible manner. Only true crimes, violent or damaging, should be punished with harsh enforcement.

    It’s like what the training books say: When the puppy does something wrong, often it is a problem of what we are doing wrong. The logic is simple: If the police are over-enforcing punishment of very minor crimes, students risking punishment will not report the larger crimes.

    We can all learn a lesson from puppy training books – encourage good behavior and be fair about how we punish bad behavior. And maybe with that approach, Paula Abdul will finally stop peeing on my sofa.

    Samuel Feldman is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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