This past Monday, April 10, Security Services revealed to The Trail in an email that every decision they make is decided not by human people, but instead by a “Magic 8-Ball,” a popular fortune-telling ball sold as a children’s toy. Within the black plastic outer shell, a 20-sided die is encased in blue liquid. Each side of the die contains a different response to a yes-or-no question: five answers are positive; five are negative; four are indeterminate; five suggest racially profiling students of color; one highly recommends “U-Bolt” locks for bicycle security.
I had a myriad of questions: was Tacoma’s premier small liberal arts college security service truly employing a children’s toy as a decision-maker? Was this a ploy to deflect the recent racism accusations directed at Security Services? And if this “Magic 8-Ball” was really in charge … was the Ball a bigot?
I reached out to Security Services for further explanation of this “Ball’”and its role in the organization, and Assistant Manager of Inconvenient Door Locking, George Securityman, agreed to an interview.
As we sat down in his office, I asked if I could speak to the Ball itself. Securityman nodded and went to the back; I heard the sound similar to that of a “Magic 8-Ball” package being opened. When he returned, Ball in hand, it was smaller than I had assumed, blindingly shiny and black. What secrets did it hold? What truths was I about to discover?
When I asked about the bias allegations levelled against them this semester, last semester and last year (and throughout Puget Sound’s history) Securityman dismissed me with a wave of the Ball. “Outlook not so good,” it said when asked if racial prejudice was a factor in Security Services’ actions. I’m not a Ball expert, but there was something … shifty about the way it answered, almost sweaty. The rest of the interview was short, perfunctory. The Ball refused to answer any more questions; the 20-sided die was stuck between “without a doubt” and “very doubtful.” So what was I to believe?
Theory and practice are very different things, and neither Securityman nor the Ball itself had really answered my questions.
To get a different perspective, I contacted Christina Pearson, a student of color who had an unpleasant encounter with Security Services last year and relayed it to Facebook. When asked if she was aware of the Ball’s existence and position in Security Services, she was surprised. “WTF??????” she said. I asked her to elaborate. “[L]ol is that what they told you,” she continued. “You know, I really feel SO MUCH BETTER knowing that they put my safety on campus in the hands of a toy. Typical.”
Christina was clearly pro-Ball, given her remarks — but was I? Hoping to tie up all these loose ends, I contacted a friend of mine, a student who works for Security services. Her response was succinct yet powerful. “Lolwut?” After elaborating on the nature of my investigation, she still seemed not to understand. “What ball??? R U high?” I, Louisa Von Vandercamp, was high — high on the thrill of hard-hitting investigation, hot on the heels of the Big Story. I was determined to crack this Ball, crack it wide open.
To further investigate this “Magic 8-Ball,” I hit the streets one night. After wandering around campus for ten minutes, I found my mark: a group of white male students gathered around a tree, giggling loudly and emitting a strange smoky smell. It seemed as though they were engaging in the pots and pans. As I stopped to chat, a security services truck rounded the corner and began to slow as it approached us. I grew excited — was I about to witness the Ball’s work in action?
The truck got closer, then passed us entirely, stopping instead to question a black student 100 feet away who was saving a kitten from drowning. I shook it off as a chance encounter and found another spot, but the same thing happened, the Security truck passed a white student defacing a stop sign, yet pulled over to talk to a Latino student who was single-handedly putting out a fire in an on-campus house.
To find out whether my observations were the result of the Ball’s judgements, I approached the truck. The driver — “Mark Securitydude,” according to his nametag — eyed me suspiciously. I identified myself as a reporter and asked him about his activities for the night, hoping to figure out the role of the Ball in his process. He was wary of me, and dodged my questions like it was his job.
When I asked him directly about the Ball, he froze. Over the walkie-talkie, I heard four telltale words: “my answer is no.” It was Securityman relaying the Ball’s orders! I quickly asked Securitydude about it, but he ignored me. “The ball must be protected!” he yelled as he sped off into the night.
The Trail reached out to the “Magic-8 Ball” itself in light of these lingering questions, but its only response was that “Good quality ‘U-Bolt’ style locks are highly recommended.” Take that with a grain of salt, gentle readers — the jury is still out on the Ball and its activities, responsibilities and role in Security Services. As for me? Outlook is good that this reporter is going to keep her ear to the ground. These Security men and their Ball are nothing to be trifled with.