In conversation with Concordia security agents
As part of their COVID-19 response, Concordia added mask and sanitization stations around campus, resulting in an increased presence of security since they supervise the mask stands, but what does security really do at Concordia? Who are the people behind the uniforms? In an email exchange with the media relations and security desk they corrected the term “guards” and said the school prefers the term “agents”. Five agents, Yannick Deschênes, Katherine Maurice, James Stull, Steve Gustave, and Bobby Wong spoke with the Link to tell us a bit more about the people behind the safety of Concordia, what they do and who they are.
“We’re not cops. We’re here to help people.” — Steve
Steve has been an agent at Concordia for two years. Before working as an agent for the university, he was an accountant. When he’s not at work he paints, listens to Gospel music and watches the stock market. “When I’m painting I listen to motivational music because I’m going deep into my work,” he said, “but when I’m going to work, I’m listening to gospel music and I’m watching the stocks at the same time.” Steve’s favourite gospel song is Wanna Be Happy? by Kirk Franklin.
Steve described his interactions with students as “tough sometimes, depending on what you’re doing, but overall, I can say it’s really good.” His most positive interactions are when students ask him questions. “the feedback I receive from them, usually they’re really satisfied,” he said.
Addressing the distinction between agent and guard he said “when you say guard, some people might think about the selective work, which is different from security, because some places security tend to think that they are police. But we’re not cops. We’re here to help people.”
“Just keep going, keep pushing, keep doing the hustle and we’ll make sure that you guys are safe and that everything will be alright.” — Bobby
Bobby has been working at Concordia for two and a half years. Before he started working for the university, he worked as a lifeguard and a personal trainer. In his free time, Bobby said he likes to do a lot of physical activity. “I go bouldering, swimming, go to the gym with friends, and play volleyball.” He also attends events like comic cons, anime conventions, and video game events. When asked about what he wears to these events, he said,“for comic con, I’ve dressed up like Spiderman, Green Lantern and Tempest.”
“I’ve learned a lot from working here,” said Bobby. “Everyone has a story, and if you’re willing to listen it lets you dive in and create a connection, and you can reach that humanity. That’s how you communicate better and get along.”
“As long as we keep it diplomatic, it never gets bad,” said Bobby in regards to student interactions. Bobby is mostly a patroller and answers students' questions, helps them out and directs them to where they need to go.
For Bobby, the distinction between guard and agent is important. “It’s less authoritative, less like we’re here as a guard to stop anyone. As agents we’re here to help people in need. Save people who need saving who are on the streets and in the buildings, and make people feel safe and good.”
Bobby’s responsibilities as an agent go beyond keeping students safe. “When we do our patrols we make sure that everything is secure, including the people around the school. We have to interact with a lot of homeless people who are overdosing or injured or passed out and we have to make sure they’re ok.”
The agents go through CPR training and both Bobby and Steve say they have saved lives while working at Concordia.
Bobby’s message to the students who are reading this is “Just keep going, keep pushing, keep doing the hustle and we’ll make sure that you guys are safe and that everything will be alright.
“Don’t fear us. Come see us, come talk to us. We like to chat as well, it doesn’t always have to be about ‘where’s my class?’” — Katherine
Katherine has been working at Concordia for 11 years. She’s a movie buff and a big Marvel fan. Her favourite character from the Marvel cinematic universe is Winter Soldier. When she’s not working, she spends a lot of time with her family, and often visits her grandparents on the weekend. “I’m very family oriented,” she said.
She expressed that she wished there was a bit more interpersonal connection with students. “Don’t fear us. Come see us, come talk to us. We like to chat as well, it doesn’t always have to be about ‘where’s my class?’” she said.
When describing her interactions with students, she says they come to her most often asking for directions. “Usually they come to us for assistance, and I think that we work in such a nice environment that for us it’s always usually a positive interaction,” she says.
When asked what her thoughts were about the distinction between “guard” and “agent”“ she said, “I like to define us more as first responders as we respond first to anything that happens on campus.”
“We’re not only here to tell you what not to do and what to do, we’re here to talk to you as a person.” — James
James has been at Concordia for a little over two and a half years. He said he likes to spend his time off in nature, either going for a walk or a run. He also likes to stay home and watch movies, particularly psychological thrillers. His top recommendation is Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
He says his interactions with students are professional and he always provides a good service. “I try to be very familiar with them. So it's not like I'm speaking to them from a position above;, I'm on the same level.”
“We’re not only here to tell you what not to do and what to do, we’re here to talk to you as a person,” says James.
James also spoke on the distinction between “guards” and “agents” and what it means to him. “We have responsibilities other than just watching one point of entry,” he said. An agent’s job description also includes medical services and protecting loss of property, as well as working with houseless people who are around campus, he explained.
James’ job title is the community resource and prevention officer. This means he is particularly involved in the community around the school, more than other agents regularly would be.
When elaborating on his job description, James was hesitant to use the word homeless when describing the people in the community he looks out for. “They're just not having a lucky experience right now,” he said. “They're just like me, or you or anybody else, except they're going through something different than what we're going through. That's the way I look at it.”
“We're in the middle of the downtown core of Montreal, and we take up a big space of it. We have many buildings in the downtown core, and I think that we have a bit of a responsibility taking up so much of this space to give back to the area,” added Yannick
The current director of campus security, Darren Dumoulin, called James’ position “a bit of an experiment.”
Part of the “experiment” Dumoulin is referring to is an attempt to reduce on-campus theft. “This is one element we want to address and get a handle on,” he said. According to Dumoulin, the library and lobbies of the buildings are big target areas for theft. “There’s people who come on campus, it’s not necessarily students, and they do their rounds of the different universities,” he said.
Part of James’ job is to help and educate students on how to make universities less of a target area for theft. “If I come upon something that's left there, I actually catalogue everything I can see with my eyes, before I put it into the bag and take it downstairs to the security desk, but at no time do I go through people's stuff to check things or to see what they have.”
He spoke about an instance where a student had left their things unattended. Then, when the student came back,James explained why it was risky. About 10 seconds after James walked away, he was surprised to see the student put something down on the table and leave again to go to the bathroom. He concluded by saying, “it's a bit of a challenge what I do because a lot of times people will be very appreciative of the fact that I take the time to explain these things to them and give them new ideas on how they can prevent the loss of their belongings. And others just seem to have a little bit of a carefree nature about that.”
“We’re in the middle of the downtown core of Montreal, and we take up a big space of it. We have many buildings in the downtown core, and I think that we have a bit of a responsibility taking up so much of this space to give back to the area.” — Yannick
Yannick has been working at Concordia for four years, and when he’s not at work, he likes playing video games, role playing games, and Magic: The Gathering. “I’m a champion at Rocket League,” he added.
“We're aware that students come here to university and it’s not like high school where you're just absorbing subject matters. It’s somewhere where you challenge the norm, and you want to maybe debate, and sometimes things can be a little edgy,” said Yannick describing his interactions with students. Curious minds are inevitable in such a rich learning environment. “We're aware of that, and we're fine with it. We're ready for it. And we're very open to have any sort of discussions because they're curious people, and also often will have a lot of questions.”
Yannick said safety “is a shared responsibility,” but enforcing it isn’t necessarily telling people what to do, “it’s just ensuring everybody’s safety and educating them about it.”