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08-11-20-quad-kylie-cooper
The Quad as seen on the night of Aug. 11, 2020. Credit: Kylie Cooper

At midnight on Sept. 5 during Labor Day weekend, a group of resident advisors noticed that the upper Quad gate turnstiles were left unguarded with no guards from Allied Universal Security Services in sight. This continued for three hours past midnight, the RAs said. Only one guard was on post in the information center, who they said was busy with handling student guest passes and was unable to monitor students who entered the gate. 

First-year Quad residents similarly reported guard shortages on several separate occasions after Labor Day weekend, including a week later, on Sept. 14, the RAs told The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Last month's reported shortages of Allied Universal guards at the Quad entrance left some RAs, who are Penn undergraduate students, to man the gates themselves. After filing formal incident reports in September regarding the shortage, the RAs said they received no word from Penn’s College Houses and Academic Services, and they then felt pressured into taking over additional responsibilities to maintain Quad security. 

Two RAs who spoke to the DP requested anonymity due to CHAS' newly implemented measures restricting RAs and graduate resident advisors from speaking to media. Three RAs confirmed the accounts mentioned to the DP.

Executive Director of CHAS Hikaru Kozuma wrote in a Sept. 29 email to the DP that CHAS had been following up on all reports sent from RAs about the alleged guard staffing shortage and is working with the Division of Public Safety to resolve any problems.

“Student leaders can bring concerns to their house directors, as well as me as the executive director," Kozuma wrote. "When there are issues, we work with students and our partners at the University to address them." 

But Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of the Penn Police Department Maureen Rush told the DP on Sept. 21 that information about a guard shortage had not been relayed to her.

Rush said that with the layers of safety protocols in place for the Quad — including the high fenced perimeter, numerous security cameras, and the Allied Security officers — RAs should not feel the need to step in.

“The relationship with Penn is quite difficult,” one Quad RA told the DP. “The administration is not very transparent. They take the work of RAs for granted in a lot of ways.”

During Labor Day weekend, the second Quad RA who spoke to the DP said RAs felt obligated to watch over the gate after witnessing a large number of intoxicated students return back to the Quad after the Made in America music festival.

“We were seeing … really high [incidences] of people passing out in lounges, people having to call [the Medical Emergency Response Team] for their friends because normally those people would be stopped at the front gate, and MERT would be called to the situation, but now there’s nobody there," they said.

They added that some students were unable to receive prompt and appropriate medical treatment at the gate, including for alcohol abuse.

“A lot of people who would normally get stopped at the upper Quad gate for extreme intoxications were getting through,” the second RA said. “You sort of feel like you have to step in for the security guard and take over that role, like checking passes and seeing how drunk people are, which is not our job.”

The second RA told the DP that multiple phone calls were made to Penn Police on Sept. 5, and said a supervisor who picked up the phone responded saying that they could not spare additional officers for the upper Quad gate. But the supervisor told the RAs that Penn Police officers would be watching the Quad's CCTV cameras and that other officers would drive by the gate during their rounds. 

Soon after the guard shortage during Labor Day weekend, the RAs said that RAGRAs met with a College House director and was told that they should not feel obligated to man the gates, because they were not trained by CHAS to do so.

Some RAs still remained wary about leaving the turnstiles empty, as they were concerned about student safety.

“It's a bit of a catch-22. Do I take care of myself and not go to the upper Quad gate? Or do I have my residents come back, and not get stopped and have alcohol poisoning when they're under my care?" the second RA said. "It just makes me a little bit worried that we tell parents that their kids are going to be fully safe, and it's kind of hard to guarantee that if there is nobody watching the front gates."

Those who manned the upper Quad gate last month said that the extra hours on shift added up to a significant, uncompensated time commitment above their typical 15- to 20-hour work weeks.

“Working in the upper Quad gate added at least a couple hours every day, a lot of emotional stress, and responsibility that we're not necessarily trained for," the second RA said. "And it's not a responsibility we should have to take on. That's not fair to us or to the residents."

Some RAs also mentioned that due to the lack of security at the turnstiles, COVID-19 masking protocols for students passing through the gate were not adequately enforced. 

On several occasions, RAs stationed themselves at the upper Quad gate and handed out masks to students entering through the portal, which they said is a responsibility of the security guards who stand at the turnstiles. RAs said they have also seen some Allied Universal guards unmasked several times while on duty.

Multiple RAs said guard staffing has been returning back to normal in recent weeks, and that Allied Universal guards at the Quad have been following the COVID-19 safety protocols more closely. 

The RAs who spoke to the DP said they want increased communication from Penn administration and CHAS about issues occurring in college houses, such as the guard shortages, which they believe will mitigate confusion and emotional distress related to the job. 

RAGRAs have encountered challenges working with Penn and CHAS in past semesters as well. Last year, the University dismissed a letter sent by over 135 RAGRAs to administration that demanded a new contract with hazard pay and a clear outline of their responsibilities, prompting RAGRAs to want to quit.

“It just feels like we were kind of abandoned by the CHAS admins and given very little guidance on what to do in this kind of upsetting situation," the second RA said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include an additional statement from Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of the Penn Police Department Maureen Rush made on the safety protocols for the Quad and the role of RAs.

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