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DP File Photo.

Credit: Ilana Wurman

Ever had a coach or school administrator show up to one of your parties? Well, Penn’s Division of Public Safety has a program that makes it more likely than you’d think.

“I’m not the person most students expect to see standing on their porch during a party. There’s definitely a moment of reckoning when the director of the Office for Student Conduct is at your front door,” Director Julie Lyzinski Nettleton said.

DPS runs a ride-along program in which school administrators and members of the athletics department can accompany Penn Police officers during a shift. This helps administrators better understand some of the challenges the officers face in terms of off-campus parties and general student interaction with the West Philadelphia community.

“It’s a great way to take a somewhat decentralized campus and keep everyone connected. Sometimes we feel detached since we’re only here during work hours,” Nettleton said. “Seeing the nightlife in real-time helps inform a lot of the work we do.”

“It’s important for administrators to see what a ‘typical’ Saturday night at 2 a.m. looks like,” Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Hiraku Kozuma wrote in an email.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. For administrators like Julie and Karu [Kozuma] who might be involved with a student conduct case, or may be working on developing a new policy, seeing what PPD deal with in their own eyes and in real-time helps effectively and realistically inform the decisions they make and policy they create,” Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

Rush said the program was started in part to help make sure that DPS and Penn Police aren’t seen as the “bad guys.” DPS and Penn Police work collaboratively with multiple administrative departments on campus in order to ensure students can have fun, but in a safe and responsible manner. “We work with VPUL, CAPS, the Office of Student Conduct and even the admissions department because we don’t want students to feel that only the DPS and PPD care about nighttime behavior, or that we only care about punishing students,” Rush said.

DPS and the University at large run multiple other “proactive programs” to help curb risky behavior, Rush said. These include the “nuisance house” program in which off-campus houses that the Penn Police repeatedly receive complaints about are monitored by DPS and occasionally brought in for meetings. These meetings sometimes include the landlord of the house, the Director of Student Conduct or even members of the Bureau of Liquor Control and Enforcement.

“We’ve been successful in curtailing recidivism in a few of these houses, but it’s not a one-size fits all solution. We have a toolbox of programs and initiatives we can use to help keeps students safe and responsible,” Rush said. “This include the ride-along and nuisance house programs, as well as working with the landlords of these places in advance, as well as working closely with the office of Alcohol and Other Drugs here at Penn.”

Penn administrators are grateful for the chance at an interactive experience with student nightlife, and the officers who monitor it. “I appreciated getting to know the Penn Police officers who patrol off campus and watching them interact with students,” Kozuma wrote. “My presence is generally that of an observer, although I was happy to help the officer wherever necessary in explaining Penn policies and expectations around parties. I also use the opportunities to remind students of our Medical Amnesty Policy, encouraging them to call for MERT anytime they or a friend might need medical attention after drinking or taking drugs.”

So look out next time your house party gets a little too rowdy — you never know who might show up. In some cases, athletic coaches have showed up at their own teams’ houses.

“Even Dean Furda has been out a few times,” Rush said.

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