A Day in the Life of a Marist Security Guard

10:45 p.m. – The moon is full. Its bright rays light up the Donnelly parking lot, independently illuminated by a fleet of taxi cabs shuttling students of all ages out into the night. I will see many of them later that night.

10:50 p.m. – I take my post. Stephen Berean, the officer placed in Champagnat Hall for the night, was five minutes earlier. Several residents and guests have already signed in. Berean has worked at Marist College for the last four years. He joined the Office of Safety and Security after retiring from a two-decade-long career with the Town of New Windsor Police Department. 

He tells me everyone comes 15 minutes early. It’s a relief system; if you’re working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., you pass the baton at 10:45 p.m. Eyes are always manning the desk. Berean will be on watch until 7 a.m.

An officer works a week in the residence halls and then spends two weeks on rounds before coming back to residence halls. “Tomorrow I’ll be elsewhere,” Berean says. Joseph Ellman, the shift supervisor, rotates them each night. Every freshman dorm – Champ, Sheahan, Marian, and Leo – along with Midrise comprises the hall assignments.

If they trust you, they’ll come to you with a problem. It makes the whole campus more safe
— Marist Security Guard Stephen Berean

As students approach the desk to swipe their red CWID cards, most of them wait a brief moment for Berean’s acknowledgement, “Go ahead, you can hit it.” He gives them the green light. 

The officer’s signaling has importance – the time it takes for an ID swipe to register a student’s information on the Lenovo laptop is enough for someone to trudge right by the desk. Behind the desk, I can see the system has a delay of just about two seconds. The screen displays a lot of information: every swiper’s name, picture, class year, place of residency, age, etc. Every swipe is logged and archived. 

11:07 p.m. – A boy with black hair and a short stature sheepishly approaches the desk with a request. His red-and-white striped shirt reminds me of Waldo, and ironically, he’s looking for something. He lost his wallet. It’s black and made of leather. Berean calls it in.

“Sometimes property comes right to the desk, if not, when we find it we secure it at the Donnelly base in a safe,” Berean tells the Waldo-shirt boy. If they find his wallet, they will send him an email and he can pick it up at any time. They find wallets, keys, phones and red Marist ID cards “like crazy.”

Waldo-shirt is going to Pennsylvania soon and needs to drive a car. Berean tells him the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department can issue a temporary form in lieu of a licence. He also reminds the resident to check behind his bed. The student goes back into Champ.

11:20 p.m. – A pair of girls are curious about the job. How can one sit there for so long, so late at night? “I would be watching Netflix and eating a ton of snacks,” one of them says. 

As their swipe is registered, Berean tells me every single swipe appears in real time back at home base in Donnelly. At that point in the night 2,323 swipes were registered. That number would reset at midnight. 

One of the girls doesn’t live in Champ. He writes down her information. The paper is slightly waxy, and the ink barely shows. The written sign-ins are an extra verification. He notes that students will lie about going from time-to-time, but logging the visiting room number helps with reports in the event of an incident. “But once they’re in, they’re in.”

It’s quiet. Most of the freshman heading out to Darby’s have already done so. We start to discuss what it will be like once they return. “I’m not here to get kids in trouble. I’m here to make sure they’re safe. It’s up to conduct to do that,” Berean said.

If a student is incoherent or in need of help, he can usually recognize the signs. After all, a large part of his night-shift career on the force was in DWI detection. “Red eyes, impaired speech, motor coordination and the smell. There’s this bar smell the kids come in wearing, you can smell it a mile away.” 

If several of these signifiers are present, and there is concern for the student’s well-being, he can contact the on-duty RD. The RD will evaluate the student and make a conduct decision. If the student is in need of immediate help, the on-campus EMTs can treat them or transport them to the local Emergency Room. EMS are mobile but based out of the office in Donnelly. They are always on call and will always check intoxicated students.

Three swipes and you’re out – that’s only a myth. It is entirely up to the officer’s discretion and that of the RD if a student needs emergency services or needs to be written up.

“If they trust you, they’ll come to you with a problem. It makes the whole campus more safe,” Berean said.

11:41 p.m. – Berean chats with an old friend, the brother of a current Champ resident visiting. “I saw your brother not even a half hour ago!” he said excitedly. A girl in “going-out” attire removes everything from her phone pouch to swipe in. 

No one enters with bags. The officers on duty check bags entirely at their own discretion, but are usually prompted by the conspicuous clinking of bottles. Of course, from the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. the desk is empty, and students are a swipe away from smuggling in contraband. A locksmith keeps the doors locked during the day, signified by a red light.

11:50 p.m. – The “Trouble” alarm goes off. It is an irritating beeping. Berean radios back to Donnelly: “Champ entry to base, are you getting the trouble alarm?” “Just getting the door open...two troubles...standby.” He cites off a combination of numbers and dashes. The door to the fire alarm panel is jammed.

Another officer arrives. “That thing was going off all night last time I was here. I’d acknowledge it, silence it, it went of 17 friggin times, don’t even bother locking that thing back up,” he said. He calls himself Bobby.

11:57 p.m. – Students begin returning. Some girls with black tops, jeans and faded eyes stagger in. The alarm goes off again. “Oh, we don’t allow visitors here,” Berean jokes. Middle aged, Berean maintains a youthful energy. He shares the same gleam in his eye and mirth to his voice as the late Chris Farley.

12:07 a.m. – Two girls try to swipe in at the same time. The red IDs almost get stuck in the machine as a happy meal is nearly knocked off the desk. “One at a time please. Are you from Midrise?! No one from Midrise allowed in here! Nah, I’m kidding, you have a good night.” Berean is having fun with them.

The night shift was always his favorite. When on-duty at Marist, he goes to sleep as soon as he is home from work, and gets up around 2:30/3 p.m. It’s the shift he always tried to get while working with the police. He grew up watching cop shows and always knew he wanted to be an officer. He graduated from Marist College in 1986 with a degree in Criminal Justice.

He is married with two children. While they were young, he could get home at 6 a.m., sleep for a quick hour or two, and then see them off in the morning. After returning to sleep and waiting for them to come home from school, he could spend a whole eight hours with them before going to work. “I never wanted to get up at four in the morning for the day shift, I’d never see my kids.” Now, they both go to Marist.

12:12 a.m. – Four from Upper New arrive, but can’t agree on the room number that they’re headed to. “Together we have half a brain.” One pair is dressed in floral prints. The girl answers an emphatic “Hell yeah!” to everything Berean asks her. 

12:22 a.m. – The alarm goes off two more times. The “Hell yeah!” girl comes back out and offers to pick us up food from the Cabaret. 

12:26 a.m. – Another alarm. “This will keep us awake, at least,” Berean said. The Waldo-shirt guy comes back to the desk. His wallet was in his hamper. All is well.

12:28 a.m. – Alarm. The panel has a series of lights that read, “ALARM, AUDIBLE, SILENCE, TROUBLE (lit up), SECURITY.”

Marist provided Berean his first full-time job since retirement. His final day as a police officer was Dec. 26, 2010. He did a few days a week with security detail for the Village of Cornwall. Movie theater security, Halloween patrol, Christmas parades, etc. He started at Marist working on the weekends in 2015, and two years later was employed full time.

12:33 a.m. – A tall student is on the ground in front of the stairs going up to the third floor hallway. “Did that guy fall?” Berean asks his entourage as he gets up. No. He dropped his mozzarella sticks. That fall was out of desperation. Another member of the crew swipes his license through the card reader, mumbles “Oh s***,” and cleanly slides his red ID through. They all laugh as they march past the desk. “Have a great f****** night,” one says as he winks at me.

12:40 a.m. – The alarm goes off three times in a row. Several more bar-goers swipe in to the command of “Hit it man/hit it hun,” from Berean. Officer Bobby returns to give Berean a quick bathroom break. When officers are on patrol, they have different sectors. Tonight, this particular assignment included Leo, Sheehan, and Champagnat Hall along with the Murray Student Center and all campus grounds in between. More incidents happen on patrol than at the desk he says.

“I like to give people a hard time before I let them back in. They stop and look scared. It’s the little bit of fun we get to have.” With that, Berean returned from his brief respite. 

12:50 a.m. – Berean checks in with one of the RAs on duty. If a room has a lot of people going into it, he’ll give the RA a heads-up. They can walk past the room in question, and if it’s loud enough inside to justify it, intervene.

12:55 a.m. – Radio in: “LT is secured, Cabaret is locked, etc.” Radio checks occur three times a night, at 1 a.m., at 3 a.m. and at 5 a.m. After the patrol officers finished their assessment, every other officer reported their location.

Late-night rounds are extremely important. One night while clearing Hancock, Berean found a burst pipe in the boiler room. “If I hadn’t called it in, who knows how much water would have gushed out.”

1:11 a.m.–  Lockout. A girl wearing a gray sweatsuit approached the desk in disarray, not having her key. “I just wanted to watch Shrek,” she lamented. The RA on duty took care of it. On the radio, Berean was notified that a girl experiencing some difficulty breathing was taken by EMS and Marist Security to the hospital in an aided transport.

1:22 a.m. – All of the on-duty RAs come to the desk to sign off on the visitor check-ins. One of them notices it has been fairly quiet for a Friday night at Marist, and a Friday the 13th with a full moon no less. They were expecting the worst. Berean was born on a Friday the 13th, and he concurs that it has been a mild night.

1:44 a.m. – A large group of girls ascends the stairs that go down to the dining hall. They all had Uber-Eats-sealed McDonalds delivery bags. Another group comes up behind them. One girl misses the swipe machine entirely, but the second time’s the charm.

2:05 a.m. – The door to McCormick Hall is broken and ajar, according to the radio. Two guys with untucked collared shirts come in wearing that bar smell Berean described. A musty combination of alcohol, sweat and tobacco. They easily swipe in and say goodnight.

The biggest reason college students get into trouble with alcohol is the inexperience with drinking, Berean believes. “They get wasted. By the time they’re your age, it’s no longer a big deal. They find out drinking isn’t what it was cracked up to be.”

2:15 a.m. – We are met with more alarms and the loss of WiFi. A horde of people come in. Berean does not have a moment to breathe for several minutes. Colorful tube tops with Carmen-Miranda-inspired prints on them light up the breezeway. 

2:20 a.m. – I hit the wall. These hours are difficult. Every minute moves at a snail’s pace. When people aren’t coming in, aside from the occasional crackle from the radio and yelling from a girl on the first floor, the place is entirely silent.

2:27 a.m. – Berean gets a quick call from “The Best Wife Ever.” He wishes her a goodnight.

2:40 a.m. – A trio of guys walk in. One of them heads straight for the desk, and at the last moment bails and goes straight for the windows. He sits for a moment. He collects himself and prepares.

2:52 a.m. – Window guy swipes in successfully. A mascara runs down a girl’s face in the breezeway doors. The guy she’s with informs us that “We’ve got a crier.” Berean tries to cheer her up. “Have a good night?” She is confused at the question, but appears alright and swipes in. She sits in the first floor lounge and is consoled by a girlfriend.

2:55 a.m. – The RAs check in one last time for the night before signing off. 3 a.m. is the cutoff for out-of-dorm visitors to swipe into Champ. Sometimes he gets resistance from the students, other times they understand the rules and say goodnight.

3:02 a.m. Another bathroom break facilitated by Bobby, and radio checks #2. We chat about football, the Yankees, what I study. He tells me his daughter is in the physical therapy program here and is doing her practical hours at John Jay. He is ecstatic to cover his children’s tuition with his employment. 

3:08 a.m. – “Hi, I’m from Leo.” “You can’t come in.” “Whaaaaaa- okay that’s fine. Good night.”

Raphael BerettaComment