On Saturday afternoon, an incident between a Muhlenberg student and an employee of Bear Security escalated into a shouting match.
In an email sent to the student body on Sunday, Dean of Students Allison Gulati announced that Muhlenberg will no longer employ Bear Security, a private security company that the College has used to supplement Campus Safety for the past 32 years. The reason cited for severing the relationship was an “incident involving racial bias.”
Muhlenberg hired Bear Security during Alumni Weekend to assist with security around campus and at a variety of alumni events. The incident in question occurred around 4:30 p.m. in the Dining Hall on Saturday, when Bear Security employees were eating dinner, according to Gulati.
According to multiple firsthand accounts, a student approached a Bear Security employee and accused him of making racist comments last November and then the security officer began laughing at the student. The shouting continued before Campus Safety officers arrived to separate the individuals and take statements.
Following the November incident, Muhlenberg notified Bear Security of “clear expectations” related to employee conduct at future events, said Gulati. “Our expectations were not met in a number of ways on Saturday, including with regard to this incident in the dining hall,” Gulati added.
The student who was involved states that the presence of various law enforcement agencies on campus has “always brought me mild discomfort” and that “this feeling of unsafety has been firmly implanted in my mind” following the incident on Saturday. Additionally, this is the second time the student claims to have “personally been in a bias incident with Bear Security.”
Gulati declined to comment on the specifics of the incident, citing an ongoing Campus Safety investigation.
Brian McMenamin, the president and chief executive officer of Bear Security, expressed disappointment at the termination of his long-standing relationship with the College. McMenamin also stated that the College has not provided an explanation of the termination, although he assumes it was the dining hall incident.
“A student, who has in the past made vile and false accusations of racism against me, threatened me with physical violence and slandered both myself and my company’s reputation,” McMenamin told The Weekly. “Instead of the Dean addressing the student behavior, my company has been dismissed after 32 years of service.”
At press time, The Weekly has been unable to confirm whether any threats of physical violence were made against McMenamin.
The Weekly is able to trace the College’s use of Bear Security at events involving alcohol to at least September 2000, when fraternities wishing to host ‘wet’ parties were required to hire two security guards. The current alcohol policy, which was significantly revised last fall to allow student organizations to host events that serve alcohol, notes that the College “may require” the hiring of additional security at such events, but does not specifically name Bear Security.
The Presidential Task Force on Alcohol Abuse recommended in April 2005 increasing the use of Bear Security at ‘bring your own beverage’ events, stating that the “results have been satisfactory and have also avoided the possibility of confrontational situations between Campus Safety and students.”
In 2002, The Weekly reported that a Bear Security officer had “pushed through the crowd to physically detain” a visiting student in a “neck hold.” Saturday’s altercation is the third reported incident, in addition to a student complaint from November 2016, which led to the College issuing “clear expectations” to Bear Security, according to Gulati.
Gulati’s email to students following the incident stated that there will be an opportunity in the future to discuss concerns related to the events of last weekend. Students have also been encouraged to schedule a meeting with Gulati or contact members of the Bias Resource Education Team, if necessary.
Ultimately, Muhlenberg will hire a new supplemental security service, said Gulati.
“The College is committed to values of community, equity and inclusion and we want to engage with contractors and service providers that support those as well,” said Gulati. “We will be seeking those qualities in any future security providers the college uses.”