Students voice concerns about campus safety

Lindsey Reed

From confusion over the campus escort service to concerns about lighting, students got to drill administrators on a number of safety issues on the Hill.

Student Government Association hosted a campus safety forum on Thursday with various campus leaders, giving students a chance to ask questions and voice concerns over safety.

About 15 students, including SGA executive officers, showed up. Panelists included representatives from campus police, Facilities Management and the university’s executive council.

SGA President John Bradley said he would have liked more students to have attended, but was still happy with how productive the event was.

For SGA vice president Patti Johnson, the escort service system on campus has been confusing.

Johnson, a Marion senior, told administrators that she and a friend were followed by two men last spring from the first floor of the Downing University Center to Topper Cafe and then out.

“It was really weird,” Johnson said. “You could tell that something wasn’t right with the situation.”

Johnson said she asked two campus police officers sitting in DUC to follow her to her car, but they did not take her seriously.

“Probably after about asking four times, we just gave up,” she said. “I just thought it was handled really inappropriately, especially considering that what we were asking them to do wasn’t that ridiculous.”

Campus police Chief Robert Deane said that such an incident would not happen again.

Deane also cleared up issues over who can use the escort service, since some thought that escorts were only for female students.

Deane said male students can expect the same treatment as female students.

“We don’t do it by gender,” Deane said. “If you are refused, get a name and badge number, and you talk to me.”

Campus police Capt. Mike Wallace said students should not always expect an escort to meet them immediately. Other obligations may take priority, making students wait a few minutes for an escort, he said.

Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life, said students that jog the outer perimeters of campus should be careful.

“We can only help those that help themselves,” Bailey said. He said joggers should consider using the Preston Center at night.

Another concern raised in the forum was the lack of lighting in certain areas of the campus at night.

Edmonton sophomore Alicia Bachicha said she is concerned with the lack of lighting between the SKyPAC lots and Rodes-Harlin Hall.

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services, said the area would be looked into at the next campus lighting tour.

Tice said he advises students to report any dark areas and walk in the lighted areas to his office or facilities management.

“We’re not going to be able to light everything on campus,” he said. “What we’re going to try to do is light the main pedestrian areas.”

Aside from escorts and lighting, the physical state of campus was also discussed.

Henderson junior Nick Todd, SGA vice president for finance, said that the stairs from the SKyPAC lots to Van Meter Hall are in horrible condition.

Facilities Management director Doug Ault said a $3.5 million electrical upgrade project that will start this winter is putting some campus repairs on hold. The project will be focused on Big Red Way.

“We didn’t want to go ahead and do a sidewalk repair project to repair all the sidewalks and stairways when we’re going to have to turn around and dig it up for the electrical project,” Ault said.

While most students expressed concerns over the external grounds of the campus, one student was concerned about the entrance policy in dorms.

“It seems to me that what is happening now is that instead of the desk clerks getting to know who belongs and who does not belong to the dorm, they sort of glance up, look for a color and look back down,” Adairville junior John Law said.

Dorm residents are asked to show their student IDs when they enter their building. Each dorm is assigned a colored sticker that is put on its residents’ IDs.

Law said he believed it would be possible to get into a dorm by using a magic marker to color in a part of the card.

Campus police officer Joe Harbaugh said students should bring dorm problems to the attention of their hall directors.

“We can’t help you guys on some of this stuff if you don’t let us know,” Harbaugh said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected].