By day, Carrie Bennett is the housemother at Alpha Delta Phi. She's the resident grown-up, the person who signs for packages, lets in the plumber, and makes sure that "her boys" are happy and healthy.
But at night, she becomes The Shush Lady. Armed with a cell phone, a campus security car, and a disposition that's both sunny and no-nonsense, she cruises neighborhoods around Homewood looking for parties. When she finds them, she gets out of the car to make sure Johns Hopkins students aren't playing loud music past 2 a.m., lingering on the front stoop, or littering the grass with half-filled beer cups.
Bennett's official title is student/community liaison and compliance officer. One of her official responsibilities is to respond to complaints from neighbors about the late-night behavior of Hopkins students. Students began calling her The Shush Lady because she's the one who reminds them to be quiet. "I don't shut parties down," she says. "They're adults. I remind them of the consequences if things continue to go wrong."
One recent Thursday, at 10:30 p.m. Bennett could be found outside Charles Commons, asking students where the parties were. Then she drove around with her car windows down, her ears open, and her eyes peeled. Just after midnight, she pulled up to a frat house with students spilling out onto the grass and spoke with the fraternity officers. "The most difficult thing is the coming and going," she says. "There are packs of students walking by people's houses talking, and they don't realize how loud they are."
So she tells them. And she reminds them that if they don't quiet down they could face arrest by Baltimore City Police and/or disciplinary actions by the Office of the Dean of Student Life. "I think we can find a happy medium," she says. "I think Hopkins students can be social without pissing off the neighbors."
Bennett spent 12 years as a Hopkins campus security officer before becoming community liaison. For nine of those years, she was a sergeant on the day shift and would read security reports from the previous evening. "Students were getting arrested left and right," she says. "Something had to be done." That included the university's strengthening its student code of conduct; forming an alcohol task force and a neighborhood-relations task force; and creating the student/community liaison position in August 2005.
Bennett's presence is making a difference. This year the number of community calls made to Hopkins is expected to decrease by 15 percent.
Her job isn't just making sure that students don't misbehave. She also teaches them how to be good neighbors. She bought a lawn mower, which she brings to students who need to cut the grass of their off-campus house. And she's been known to drive stranded Loyola students home to their dorms.
"I love my job," she says. But her work isn't always easy. "I only got punched once last year," Bennett says, somewhat proudly. "It was by a girl, and she got me pretty good." — MB
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