How to fix Mercer’s visible ID tag policy

Written by: Ken Napier

According to page 44 of the current student handbook (you can find it on the MCCC website if you look hard enough), “Students must visibly display a valid MCCC ID at all times on campus.”

Having an school ID card makes sense. Requiring that students display their ID visibly at all times, does not.  According to a publicly posted handout, the policy was created “…to aid in providing personal safety protection of students, faculty, staff and visitors; as well as to protect the College’s physical assets…”

When asked why the policy was enacted, Executive Dean of Student Affairs Dianne Campbell said “the concern is that we don’t have students showing up and just hanging out on campus… we want to discourage that… we don’t want people selling drugs.”

Okay, so they’re trying to keep out the riffraff, that’s respectable. But is it viable? Our campus has more than 12,000 registered students and more than 200 employees. Although security personnel told The VOICE that they could not reveal the exact number of security staff who are employed by the college, the college directory lists 15 officers serving the two campuses (this number includes the commanding officer and second in command).

In order to fully comply with the wording of college policy #602, security would have to stop every single person on campus any time they were seen without an ID card. A visual survey conducted by staring out the window of the VOICE newsroom at the people milling around the student center, suggests about one in ten students wears their ID tag.

In policy #602 the college has given security the shaft. It asks them to do the impossible and makes enforcement arbitrary at best. I’d like to think security has better things to do.

Page 44 of the student handbook also states, “Students who violate the policy [#602] will be subject to a fine of $25.” But don’t get too worried about that fine. For one thing, no one has ever received the fine (we got this information by completing a state open public records request). For another, in an interview with two VOICE staffers this past February, Executive Director for Compliance and Human Resources Jose Fernandez said the actual fine is $10. When asked how students would know of this apparent change in the stated policy, Fernandez did not offer a cogent response.

Toothless policies do nothing but reduce community members’ confidence in an institution. Visible ID’s make sense at private installations like hospitals, prisons and military compounds, but not on a public college campus. Colleges don’t have the types of security concerns as a nuclear submarine base or Ft. Leavenworth. In fact, the VOICE staff could find no other college in New Jersey (or the country, for that matter, but we didn’t scour every state) that requires students to wear their ID’s visibly.

Since 2008 the VOICE has covered all kinds of incidents on campus, from fist-fights to car break-ins, muggings to identity theft. In none of these incidents did the visible ID tag policy do anything to stop crime.

The ID tag does not possess magical properties. It will not stop people from doing the same things they have always done; it cannot prevent theft or fraud or even a school shooting. The policy should be revised to say that students must carry their ID tags while on campus and be able to present them on request. A minor revision would offer the desired results without all the bs.

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Ken Napier
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