The Coin: Backpack Ban Brings Piles of Problems

Each issue two Reserve Record writers debate an important issue for “The Coin.” January’s topic is WRA Campus Security’s new “Backpack Ban.” 

One of the many choices that WRA students face daily is the seemingly simple decision of where to leave backpacks. Our sprawling campus offers many options to stow bags between classes, but I opt to place my backpack somewhere easily accessible for my next class. Students often choose to drop bags in front of Seymour Hall or in the Chapel which makes it easy to retrieve after coming back from lunch or after Morning Meeting. Is it really necessary to sacrifice convenience just to avoid the occasional difficulty of navigating through a sea of backpacks?

Not only is carrying our bags everywhere we go with us inconvenient it begins to dismantle a staple of the Reserve culture. When I shadowed, I remembered seeing the bags left all over campus and being amazed that students trusted one another enough to leave their things unattended. At Firestone High School in my hometown of Akron, this simply would not slide. The contents of your book bag would likely be gone within minutes of having left it unattended. Luckily however, we live in a community where the risk of bookbag-pilfery is relatively low. This allows us the complete freedom to leave our bags where we please. This trust is something that has been ingrained into the culture of WRA, and to ban our book bags from the halls is to dismantle part of the culture of The Academy. Mr. Thomas Goad, our new head of campus security, has taken it upon himself to revoke this privilege seemingly for our own good. The recent ban on book bags being left outside academic buildings is entirely unwarranted.  

Mr. Goad argues that the bags pose a safety risk. Has anyone ever been seriously injured as a result of an idle backpack? One can argue that, in the event of an emergency, school bags crowding emergency exits make organized evacuations difficult. This may seem true at first, but, when you break it down, it seems quite absurd. Take Seymour, for example. The majority of bags end up next to the table on the main floor. Here they remain entirely out of the way and never impede the traffic of the students. The bags are also often placed around the back entrance to Seymour. While this is at times inconvenient, it does not place any large security risk to the students. Mr. Goad has posed that bags make it difficult for students on crutches to maneuver through campus. But, last time I checked, it wasn’t the book bags that made this difficult. Instead, the innumerable staircases and spread out classrooms make navigating the campus difficult on crutches with or without bags.  

Mr. Goad has proposed that instead of leaving our bags in front of the Chapel before Morning Meeting we bring them to our next period class before the assembly begins. With students already rushing in late to every Morning Meeting, students hardly have time to first move their bags to their next period class. Mrs. Skinner has already been cracking down on late penalties. and to follow Mr. Goad’s instructions would only add further to this problem. Mr. Goad has also provided the alternative suggestion of leaving them in the building you recently departed. However, this would result in yet another problem following Morning Meeting. If you came from art class in KFAC, for instance, are you expected to walk all the way back from the Chapel to retrieve your bag before rushing to your next period class across campus? The reason students leave their book bags along Brick Row and in front of the Chapel to begin with is because Mr. Goad’s solutions have already proved nonsensical through practice. To risk late penalties and inconvenience students just for the sake of avoiding the occasional stumble over a backpack seems truly absurd.

Mr. Talaba, Director of Music Programs also expressed concern for the supposed book bag epidemic, and thanked Mr. Goad for his direction. In an email, Talaba wrote, “Thanks for addressing this. I have been complaining about this for two years as the book bags are a big fire hazard. The same thing happens in Hayden. Let’s do a fire drill during choir. The backpacks will block the door as usual.” However, is it really the book bags that are the issue in this scenario? Reserve has been conducting fire drills for years and has this issue ever come up before? No, it has not. In my opinion, this is simply the work of a new security director all too eager to exercise his new control over students’ daily lives. In the recent drill that was conducted during morning meeting, the Chapel evacuation went relatively smoothly regardless of the number of backpacks in the main hall. Any mishaps were due solely to the inability of students to remain quiet during the drill. Finally, to be frank, if a fire were to break out in the chapel during Morning Meeting the old matchbox would likely trap us inside, regardless of how many backpacks were on the floor downstairs.

-Charlie Kolodziej ’18

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