Persona Non Grata -- for All to See

Post-Virginia Tech, U. of Northern Colorado creates Web site with names and photos of those barred from campus.
April 27, 2007

They don't have to wear a scarlet letter, but those banned from the campus of the University of Northern Colorado now face a very public punishment.

Days after the shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Colorado took its persona non grata list and put it online with photos whenever they were available. At least one of those on the list is accused of a somewhat famous crime: Mitchell Cozad is the former backup punter charged with attempted murder in the stabbing of his team rival. But others are saying that they were never accused of violence and don't deserve to be publicly identified in this way.

Officials with both the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and Security on Campus said that they did not know of another college that had gone public with such a list.

Having such a list is common, and typically it would be distributed to campus police or those monitoring entrances to buildings or other facilities. The Web site created by Northern Colorado states that people can be banned from campus for a variety of reasons, including violations of the student code of conduct, theft or felonies. The Web site notes that those on the list "aren't necessarily dangerous" and asks anyone seeing one of the people to notify campus police.

In the week since the Web site went up, newspapers in Colorado have noted that some of the people named may not be as dangerous as say, someone charged with attempted murder. For instance, The Denver Post quoted Brittany Bethel, one of those on the list with a photograph, as saying that she apparently violated the university's ban on being a danger to herself because she suffered from anorexia and collapsed on campus last year, requiring hospitalization. Corinne Sanchez, also on the list with a photograph, told The Rocky Mountain News she lost a job as a custodian in part because health issues forced her to miss work. Further, she said that she left a message for her supervisor after she was fired saying "when karma comes around, it's going to kick you in the butt." Sanchez told the paper she would never hurt anyone.

Following such reports, Kay Norton, Northern Colorado's president, sent an e-mail message to students and faculty members, noting that she had been receiving many questions. "As a public institution, we can't approach security by 'locking down' our campus; our responsibility is to balance safety and access. To do this, we rely on information, transparency and community. The Web site is one tool for sharing information with people who come to our campus," Norton wrote. "Let me reiterate that persona non grata orders may be issued for a variety of reasons. People who receive PNG orders aren't necessarily dangerous; they are unwelcome on our campus because they have violated our code of conduct. I assure you that we do not issue persona non grata orders because of someone's medical condition."

A spokesman for the university, asked if newspaper reports suggested that illness did result in some people being placed on the list, said that he could not discuss the specifics of why anyone was on the list. But he reiterated Norton's statement that no one was placed on the list for medical reasons.

S. Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security on Campus, said he would generally recommend this approach only for those who were clearly dangerous, not for everyone banned from campus. But he praised the university for coming up with "a new tool" to protect its campus.

"Of course not everyone's going to be happy to be on the list," he said. "But a no trespass order is only as good as the people who know it has been given."

The student newspaper at Northern Colorado, has come out against publicizing those on the list, noting that their specific crimes or alleged crimes are not provided. "Honestly, the chance of every one of these individuals being a genuine threat toward the life and liberty of UNC students is unlikely," says an editorial in The UNC Mirror. "So what are they on the Web site for? Snatching mugs from Tobey Kendall? Sneaking in hidden post-its during a major exam? Plagiarism? Excessive PDA at 10th Avenue and 20th Street? The deal is that until we are informed as to what these individuals have been restricted for, there is no reason to take these statements and bans seriously. Until we are informed of their actions, their being named as individuals unwelcome to campus is merely hearsay."


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