Panhanding: Deal with it as you will

By Patrick Murphy

In last Friday’s Daily Piper, recent incidents of panhandling on campus were addressed with the following warning: “If you are approached by someone asking for money, assistance with a vehicle, or giving other hardship stories, do not engage in the conversation and walk away… Please do not encourage this behavior by giving the person money.” In Monday’s Daily Piper, an apologetic note clarified that the above suggested responses to panhandling are only applicable when the individual is being threatening or aggressive. I appreciate this clarification, however, I believe that there is an additional issue at hand in this situation. I don’t doubt that the administration and campus safety have students’ best interests in mind; however, Macalester students are adults capable of making their own decisions. It’s the job of the administration and campus security to keep us safe. And that’s awesome. However, at some point Mac students need to be permitted to take the training wheels off and make our own decisions–without suggested responses. We live in a bubble, and to succeed in the real world we need to be given the autonomy to make our own real world decisions. Panhandling often occurs on or near campus. While the Daily Piper advisory was in regard to a woman with a broken-down car, the vast majority of incidents revolve around Peter–-a charming individual who has pocketed sums of money from students ranging from a few dollars to $400 over the past several years. It should also be noted that there has been growing suspicion that Peter is responsible for several robberies that have occurred at student residences in the past year. So, when you’re confronted by Peter-–and you will be–-do what you feel is appropriate in that situation. The bottom line is that the man is damn good at what he does. He’s personable and gives a highly convincing pitch when he confronts students around campus. The number of times his car has broken down and his family members have been in and out of the hospital is astounding. For as bad as he’ll tell you his luck is, Peter has had quite an impressive run making a living at a hard game by playing on the heart strings of Macalester students. Chances are Peter’s presence around campus will continue into the foreseeable future. Again, I’m not going to tell you how to react when you encounter Peter. It just might be helpful to know a little bit about who he is and what he’s about. And if you don’t believe me, ask him. He’ll talk your ear off.