Before debate, random searches for Upper Row

Brothers respectful, but some find searches unnecessary

| News Editor

In anticipation of the vice presidential debate at Washington University, residents of Upper Fraternity Row will welcome some special guests to their houses—the U.S. Secret Service.

But the agents will not be making any social visits. Instead, as one of the conditions for hosting the vice presidential debate on Oct. 2, the University is granting Secret Service agents full access to all buildings on campus. Buildings near the debate hall (which will be in the Athletic Complex), will receive highest priority, including all fraternity houses on the Upper Row and nearby academic buildings.

According to David Wallace, coordinator for housing programs in the Greek Life Office (GLO), the Secret Service will be allowed to search “everything, behind every door and behind every room,” and the searches may include bomb-sniffing dogs.

“What they’re looking for obviously are explosive devices, anything that might harm the candidates, anything that might disrupt the event,” Wallace said. “And in the process of that, if they discover anything other than that they may or may not take action depending on what they find.”

According to GLO Director Ryan-Jasen Henne, drug or other illicit substance violations will likely be handed over to the Washington University Police Department (WUPD) and the judicial administrator. If weapons or explosives are discovered, the Secret Service can arrest the violators on the spot, and agents can also detain any person for up to 72 hours without a reason.

A spokesman for the Secret Service declined to comment on the matter.

Agents may not be searching all of the residents’ drawers and closets, but Wallace says that they have the option of doing deeper searches if they find any hints of the presence of weapons or explosive devices in a hidden space.

“I can’t imagine if a bomb-smelling dog goes through a building and the officer perceives that the dog gets a whiff of something that they’re not going to follow up with that in some way, or shape or form,” Wallace said. “And if it’s by a dresser, if it’s by a closet, then their duty is to look through that stuff.”

Henne did not know when the Secret Service presence on campus would begin, but he suggested that it would be no later than Sept. 25.

According to Wallace, the fraternities are not the only buildings that will be searched. All buildings on campus are fair game for the Secret Service.

“There are steam tunnels that they’ll be going through, there are academic buildings over on that side of campus that they’ll be going through as well, there’ll be a presence within the parking garage,” Wallace said. “All that stuff around the Athletic Complex will be examined pretty closely.”

GLO has alerted fraternity men to the impending searches and encourages fraternity leaders to bring representatives from WUPD to chapter meetings to go over debate security information.

“Our side of it really is focusing on education so that the men know that during the week leading up to the debate, it’s going to be not as convenient,” Henne said.

The Interfraternity Council (IFC), which governs all 11 official fraternities at the University, has also made the issue of Secret Service searches an agenda item in order to educate fraternity members.

“We just basically kind of told them what to expect as far as educating them,” junior Brad Matherne, IFC vice president of campus and community outreach, said. “We told them that these officers are not WUPD. They’re the only officers in the country that can detain you for up to 72 hours, so don’t give them a hard time. If they want to come in and search your house, you have to let them. There’s nothing you or the University can do to say otherwise.”

According to Matherne, a security checkpoint will be set up in front of Anheuser-Busch Hall, which is directly adjacent to the Upper Row. During the week of the debate, the only people who will be admitted past the checkpoint and into the fraternity houses are house residents.

“It’s really unfortunate for guys who are in the fraternities on the Upper Row but don’t live in the houses, because they will not have access to the houses for that week,” Matherne said.

Within the fraternities, Henne believes that the fraternity leaders and house managers likely have their own plans for their residents. Fraternity leaders like senior Gary Palmerson, house manager of Theta Xi fraternity, are in the process of informing their residents about what to expect.

“I told them everything I was told, so we’re all on the same page, and let them know that this is not the time to mess around,” Palmerson said. “I just kind of gave them the basics right now. In a week or two, as we get closer, I’ll tell them all again and go into specifics.”

Palmerson is confident that there will be no problems from any of the fraternities, but he emphasizes that the Secret Service agents are not to be taken lightly.

“This is a group that can keep you in lockdown for 72 hours, and they need no reason or motive to do it, so we are going to be extra careful, more so than you normally would be,” he said. “I think we all realize that one stupid mistake by one brother could jeopardize everybody in the fraternity.”

Henne also does not foresee any problems coming from the fraternities.

“We’re in a space where we have confidence and faith in the men who live in the fraternity houses to be doing the right thing,” Henne said. “So we don’t really foresee a lot of trouble coming out of this because the guys for the most part are doing what they’re supposed to be doing anyway.”

While fraternity members and leaders applaud the Secret Service for taking security precautions, some find the searches unnecessary.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but I like the fact and respect the fact that they can do it,” Palmerson said.

“For Wash. U’.s culture, I would say that they’re not necessary, but from a national security standpoint I’m going to say they are,” Matherne added. “I’m not expecting anyone to do anything that would be a threat to anyone in the fraternity houses themselves. But from a national security standpoint, you can’t afford to take chances on things like this.”

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