By Katie Davern & Sally Kruzig
Staff Writer, News Editor
The Charity Week jail will be restricted by new policies this year. Due to the traditionally rowdy nature of the jail, the administration is implementing regulations intended to ensure the safety of everyone involved. While the jailers have been known to capture people by physically carrying or dragging them, the new policies now prevent them from manhandling people to bring them to the jail. However, some people fear that the new policies focus upon student safety over students’ idea of fun.
Members of the administration opted to change the policy because they felt that the previous method of jailing people could be mistaken for student assault. The changing of the sexual assault policy was a key factor, according to Dore Madere, director of student life.
“We’ve done a lot to change our sexual assault policy, due to new federal regulations and the jailer policy change is in line with everything else that we’re doing with the university as far as sexual assault and assault,” Madere said. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t create double standards in our policies.”
Madere also cited an incident with a Braniff graduate student last year that particularly prompted her to opt for a change in policy.
“I’ve actually had a graduate student complain because she was pretty much attacked by some male jailers and she was pretty shaken up. If you didn’t do your undergraduate here and you don’t really know what Charity Week is all about, it could be scary if you’ve got a petite female being grabbed by two guys and she’s saying “let go,” no one’s letting go of her, and she’s being taken to where she doesn’t want to go and she doesn’t know why,” Madere explained.
After the student filed a formal complaint to the university, Madere felt that the jail should reflect and follow the school’s policies on assault.
Many students disagreed with Madere’s use of the term “assault.” In contrast, most students, when asked, used the term “fun” to describe the old jailing methods.
“It basically defeats the point of the jail,” said senior Charles Shaughnessy. “It’s basically taking all the fun out of it.”
Resident coordinator Catherine Duplant felt that the policy is essentially about respecting people’s wishes.
“The real push is not to restrain the fun and regulate everything that’s going on with the jail,” Duplant said. “It’s that if someone says no you have to listen to that.”
Yet students fear that the new policies are about much more than stopping when someone says no. The jailers met on Sunday afternoon to receive training and sign a contract entailing exactly what they can and cannot do.
According to the policy, they are not allowed to “forc[e] any persons into the Jail by means of force, including but not limited to: pushing, pulling, dragging, restraining [or] chasing and tackling any person(s),” and they can only arrest them by “gently guiding” them to the jail.
Others believe that, without any sort of muscle behind the jail, there is no point to having one.
“It seems to me that that is the abolition of the jail, because I believe that the definition of the jail is to be constrained without one’s consent,” Dr. Susan Hanssen, a professor well-known for her annual Charity Week escapes, said. “So to abolish constraint is to abolish jail, so the jail’s just been abolished.”
Though students have expressed concern that the policy undermines the tradition and spirit of Charity Week, Dr. John Plotts, vice president of enrollment and student affairs, thinks that change is a positive development.
“I think it might encourage more participation in the program if you know you’re not going to be brutally handle[d],” Plotts said. “You still get to jail people; you still have to pay to get out, still raising money for great causes. We’re trying to do it in a safer way.”
Student participation has not seemed to reflect this sentiment. The Charity Week organizers had an unusually difficult time finding people willing to be jailers this year. There also appeared to be significantly fewer students being put in jail on Monday, the first day of Charity Week.
Duplant addressed criticism of the policy and decreased participation in the jail this year. She disagrees with those who are unhappy about the new hands-off policies.
“To me, that’s uncharitable and doesn’t follow through with what the spirit of Charity Week is,” Duplant commented. “The purpose of it is to raise money to support causes that are in line with our Catholic mission.”
Senior Chris Goldkamp, who is organizing the jail this year, declined to comment on the changes in the policy.
Some students, on the other hand, feel that they should not be criticized for not wanting to participate in policy changes in which they had little to no say.
“The students are traditionally responsible for running Charity Week, and when you take away the responsibility, people are less likely to participate,” senior Samantha Bond said. “That makes it difficult for seniors to get excited and get involved when they weren’t really allowed to be a part of the whole process of the jail and the new decisions about it. So I think calling out the seniors for their lack of participation is a little bit of a harsh judgment.”
Understanding the safety and legal concerns surrounding the policy, Dr. Eileen Gregory agrees with the new rule of no longer chasing people to tackle them, but thinks that some allowance should be made for liveliness.
“I understand the concern for litigation. I also think that the jail has always been a kind of wild and crazy thing,” Gregory stated. “So if you want to kill the jail, you know, kill the jail, say we’re not doing it anymore. You’ve got to allow for some wild and craziness. It seems really contradictory to ask permission to jail someone.”
Another new aspect of the Charity Week jail is the jail itself. The jail must now be professionally built. In the past, students were allowed to design and construct the jail themselves. The administration fears it is hazardous to have the jail built by people who are not licensed for that line of work, according to junior Jacob Loel, one of Charity Week’s two student co-chairs.
The jail continues to be the cattle car bought for last year’s “Wild West” themed Charity Week. Loel sees this as an improvement.
“You don’t have to be scared of getting tetanus if there’s a giant nail coming out it, you know?” Loel explained.
Gregory disagrees. She sees the use of the cattle car as having deeper and more problematic implications.
“The thing that concerns me most … is the cattle car,” Gregory said. “First of all, a cattle car is punitive. It’s not like being thrown into a homemade jail, it really is more like a real jail and not a pretend jail. It’s also just metaphorically an awful thing, and, culturally, there’s all kinds of references to human transport in cattle cars that we want to avoid.”
Gregory may be referring to the use of cattle cars to transport victims to concentration and death camps during the Holocaust. During that time, cattle cars were not only efficient but also helped to dehumanize people by placing them in a vehicle traditionally used for animals.
In the end, despite the administration’s desire to protect students, many students and faculty members felt a more open discussion was needed in order to preserve the fun of this tradition.
“I’m just afraid that the jail is at the center of Charity Week,” said Gregory. “You kill the jail, you’ve killed a lot.”