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CAMPO officer Jennifer Williams: Staff spotlight

Life is an unfolding adventure for daytime Campus Safety Officer Jennifer Williams. She wakes up every morning excited to meet people and wondering, “What are we going to do today?” 

Williams began her career in public safety as a police officer in Los Angeles, California. Working for the force appealed to her, she says, as it allowed her to be outside and to “work with people and help them.” Despite dreading a desk job, she eventually became a detective for the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. “My job was like a rollercoaster,” Williams says. But she enjoyed the challenges she faced, and the feeling of following a case through to the end. She also noted that the detective work required her to keep mentally alert, and constantly engage with the community around her. 

Jennifer Williams shot by Xiao (Smile) Ma

However, not being one to settle, she was inspired to move to Vermont after visiting the area for her brother-in-law’s wedding. Leaving behind twenty-three years of service in the LASD, and a place she had for a long time called home, Williams and her husband packed their children and bags into a van, then trucked across the country to start a new chapter of life. 

Though she was initially shocked by the change of pace from LA, remarking that it felt as if “someone had stepped on the brakes,” she now prefers the less cluttered lifestyle, appreciating the smaller stores, little traffic, and the fact that “cars and houses [that] can be left unlocked,” Her positive and dedicated attitude intact, Williams worked as a stay-at-home mom for a year while the family adjusted.

Eventually, however, that “got a little boring,” so she began picking up shifts as a waitress and caterer before using her background to begin working at Bennington College in January of 2019. She also began studying human psychology and is due to receive her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Vermont in the spring of 2021.

“Every day is very different,” she says of her work at Bennington, where, as in her previous job, the changing demands keep her sharp. After a daily safety check, she is on call to attend to safety concerns, which may include unlocking doors, monitoring COVID tests, or attending to health emergencies. “[A]mbulances are far away,” Williams tells me, so Campus Safety officers have to manage intense situations primarily on their own — but it feels good to be self-sustaining. .

One thing beyond Williams’ control is the fining system and she doesn’t enjoy giving tickets to students. She also wishes there was more monitoring of visitors on campus, yet she often uses her observation training to track unfamiliar cars and faces.

Williams’ impressive work drive isn’t her only distinguishable feature —  I initially reached out to her because of her friendly demeanor, which is perceptible even despite her complaining that “[Masks] hide my smile!”  Quick to laugh and always having time to chat, Williams calls herself “a people person.” Human contact is essential for her wellbeing, and working as a daytime officer allows her to “kinda know who everyone is”— another reason to smile.

Besides all of her official duties and pursuits she is “working to get her kids out of the nest,” by teaching them to “be kind and responsible,”and pay their bills on time. The family also recently got a dog that occupies much of her free time. 

Williams emphasized the overall dedication and care she feels as a Campus Safety officer. She is here to help students, letting them know that “they should call whenever the need arises.” “Get to know us!” she urged: “We are available and we can get you the help you need.” 

Williams is a caring individual and dedicated employee. We are lucky to have such a bright person watching out for us.

3 Comments

  1. Zoe Zoe October 28, 2020

    Hi Bennington Beacon,

    I would first like to thank you for documenting life at Bennington and creating a platform for students to share their work.

    But with that in mind I do have a few comments on this article. I do believe it is important to get to know the staff of Bennington. For example, I would understand a profile on the house custodians or D-hall workers or B&G, and hope that that is in the future. However, I am a bit concerned about this article detailing a campo officer. Williams seems like a lovely individual but I feel that this article is desperately trying to humanize campo officers. I am questioning whether this is necessary and if it is the Beacon’s job to do so?

    I am not trying to attack the Beacon or any journalists, simply wanting to start a dialogue and to examine who exactly this article is written for.

    • admin admin October 29, 2020

      Hi Zoe,

      Thank you for voicing your concern about the implications of this positive depiction of a Campo officer, especially when the motivation of law-enforcement systems around the world, and the individuals who take part in them, are under examination. Really, I’m glad that you started this conversation.

      As you noted, we want to make this a platform where students can share their voices, so we encourage you or others to submit an opinion about law-enforcement on campus—I’ll leave the link below. There’s currently an article in the editing process criticizing disciplinary fines, which we’re very excited to get out to the community.

      I also understand, however, that it’s our responsibility to report on critical and current conversations happening on campus, so we’d be more than happy to try and see if a reporter would be available to get student perspectives on Campo operations. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in reading? Perhaps you’d even be interested in contributing to the conception of an article like this? (We only have so many consistent journalists.) Please feel free to keep this public conversation going so that the community can listen, but if you’d like to discuss more in-depth or privately, you can always email either thebeacon.bennington.edu, sarahlore@bennington.edu (Editor-in-Chief), or thomasfinegar@bennington.edu (Editor of College Politics.)

      https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdY5OV48pVJoutiLq0oIaAe91axaywe2W98u3p_OZhC0HRAkA/viewform?usp=sf_link

      Sincerely,

      Sarah Lore

      • Zoe Zoe October 29, 2020

        Thank you for engaging with me and I appreciate you posting this comment to the public. I am interested in reading the article about disciplinary fines and hope that articles about campo from the student perspective get written. All the best

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