Quiet as the grave

What it’s like to work on campus after hours

A typical university day begins around 8 a.m. as cars fill onto campus and students emerge from the comfort of residence halls.

This frenzied flow of vehicles, students, faculty, staff and Jimmy John’s delivery drivers continues strong through the afternoon, creating a whirl of excitement and anticipation in the ever-busy present. Ferris State University is a living, breathing, learning machine.

By evening, the flow slows up—commuters return home, residents hole up to study, televisions turn on, evening meals are prepared—the volume of campus life dials down with the setting of the sun. Soon the stars come out and all is silent.

Shhh. Academia is sleeping. Or is it?

As many students end their day, many begin theirs. They are the night watchmen, the graveyard shift, the dead ringers, the men and women whose job it is to make sure nothing goes bump in the night.

So who are they? What do they do? Why aren’t they in bed? Let’s take a look at just some of the roles performed after hours when all is quiet and not a creature is stirring.

Residence hall desk service assistant
“I sleep between classes,” said Ferris criminal justice sophomore Kendon Berg. “I can do a lot of homework with not a lot of people bothering me.”

Working nights can be tough on a student’s schedule. Planning one’s sleep and study around work and classes is no easy task.

Berg is a desk service assistant (DSA) in Vandercook Hall. The job of the DSA is multifaceted. Students run out of toilet paper and other necessities at all hours, not just when it’s convenient. DSAs meet these needs when appropriate.

DSAs also make nightly rounds, patrolling the hallways and perimeters to make sure any unwanted noises—or smells—aren’t permeating from rooms and disrupting other residents.

The most common occurrences are noise complaints, but other commotions can happen, especially when alcohol or drugs might be involved.

“The most bizarre thing to happen to me was three intoxicated students coming to the desk at 3 a.m. and talking about their individual meanings of life,” said Ferris pre-criminal justice freshman Ryan Mooney, a DSA and resident in Brophy-McNerney Hall.

FLITE night security
For some students, a quiet place with internet access doesn’t come cheap. For them, the library offers its extended hours suite during closed hours.

The extended hours suite—aka the annex—is an absolute necessity, that without, would result in many class projects left undone. Traffic is usually fairly slow with personal laptops at peak popularity, but around finals season it picks up.

With all these busy students packed into a small, university-owned space filled with top-of-the-line technology, somebody’s got to keep an eye out. Enter Dominique Starling: night security.

“I don’t usually interact with students unless they have questions,” said Starling, a Ferris sociology freshman.

Like DSAs, the job of night security is a noninvasive one, designed more to monitor than interfere. They offer basic assistance with computers, keep a regular head count and remind students to be respectful to the library as well as fellow study bugs when it is required.

Though Starling hasn’t witnessed any incidences herself, night security has had to deal with the occasional brawl or other disruption in the past.

“Of course I always worry about safety,” said Starling, who also works FLITE’s circulation desk by day. “But for the most part everybody is sane.”

Public safety student dispatch
Walk campus at night and you may run into a pair of individuals in yellow safety vests. Maybe you’ve seen the Ferris State cruisers patrolling the streets and parking lots.

Reports come in, reports go out. Armed with a handheld radio, calls are received from DPS personnel, students, resident halls and anybody willing to engage those blue kiosk things placed randomly around campus.

The office of public safety is open at all times, 24 hours, 365 days, on holidays and available to anybody who requires their assistance. Many students don’t realize this. The door is open at all times, the lights are on and there is always DPS personnel at the main desk.

DPS dispatch can be considered the nerve center of it all, having access and communication with every other person working the Ferris night cap. The boys in vests “walking the beat,” Dominique in FLITE, Ryan and Kendon in the residence halls, even Big Rapids police and emergency services.

So when that drunk guy is having a fight with his girlfriend outside Timme at 4 a.m., DPS dispatch is the first to be notified.

All in all, campus appears to be asleep in the darkest hours of night but it is very much alive at all times, pulsing with the beat of every hard worker who helps make Ferris the great place it is: a quiet place, a safe place and an ideal place to study, so that we as students can sleep sound at night—without worry—and feel refreshed and ready to begin yet another busy day.