An annual University tradition took place last Wednesday the West Quad-South Quad snowball fight. Hundreds of students participated in the battle, which included massed charges across East Madison Street and spirited defenses of each residence hall.
Interestingly, the brawl also featured the University”s Department of Public Safety. Shortly after the snowball fight began, DPS squad cars blocked both sides of East Madison to prevent oncoming traffic from entering the battle and potentially hurting participants. This action on the part of DPS made the snowball fight much safer and DPS deserves credit for trying to prevent injuries students might otherwise suffer if East Madison were open to car, trucks, and buses.
However, it appears that DPS is somewhat selective in choosing at what events it will protect students” safety. Last year”s Naked Mile is a good example: The number of students roaming and lining the streets exponentially exceeded the number of students participating in last week”s snowball fight. Unlike in previous years though, at the Naked Mile, neither DPS nor the Ann Arbor Police Department tried to protect students from oncoming traffic by blocking the appropriate streets. Rather, students were routinely endangered by traffic as cars and trucks drove unencumbered down South University, State, and other central campus streets. Ironically, traffic was not stopped until the students themselves sat down in the middle of South University to protest the heavy-handed tactics used by law enforcement officials.
DPS was responsible for similar inaction at the expense of students” safety in 1992. Students angry over DPS officers becoming full-fledged deputies (which allowed DPS officers to bear firearms) stormed the Fleming Building and massed on State Street in front of the Michigan Union in protest. Like last year”s Naked Mile, in 1992 DPS left the streets open to traffic and did nothing to protect students from oncoming cars and trucks.
If the Department of Public Safety is to protect University students, its primary responsibility, then it must not protect them selectively. DPS is not supposed to protect the student body only when doing so does not clash with DPS” preferences and politics rather, it is supposed to serve and protect students regardless of the fact that its leadership and officers may disagree with whatever events the students are involved in. If DPS is to keep the trust of students it must be apolitical in its actions and not selective in how it chooses to protect public safety.