Task force issues report

Kandace Sebastian

After the murder of Pellville freshman Melissa “Katie” Autry last semester, safety measures on campus have been placed under extra scrutiny.

Single-sex housing for freshmen, a greater police presence in dorms and more pay for housing staff are among the recommendations handed down in July by a campus safety task force.

The task force – made up of students, staff, parents and community – was created on May 15 to list recommendations concerning safety and security in all facets of the university.

Mike Littell, chair of the safety committee, said the committee was an autonomous group that met together during the summer to review university policies, procedures and campus access to further improve campus safety.

“It was a breath of fresh air to have students and parents participating,” Littell said.

The recommendations devised by the committee were not new or created from scratch, but an opportunity for refinement, Littell said.

Some changes are already starting as students move back to the Hill.

John Bradley, president of the Student Government Association and a task force member, said easy entry and exit of dorms will not be an option this semester.

“Some of the exit doors have been made emergency doors,” Bradley said. “The number of regular exit doors has decreased.”

Allowing only one door for entry and exit allows desk clerks to keep a close watch on who comes in and out of residence halls, Bradley said.

Campus police are also continuing to patrol campus, as well as checking in residential halls.

Campus Police Chief Robert Deane said the proposed recommendations for police are already on their way.

Police are being more visible in dorms and plan to have an anonymous tip line set up in a few weeks for students to call in complaints or safety concerns on campus, Deane said.

Louisville freshman Andrea Gordon said she feels comfortable and safe in Bates-Runner Hall because her door locks when it closes.

“That makes me feel a lot better, knowing that I don’t have to lock the door,” Gordon said. “What they have done this year has made it safe.”

Another consideration is making on-campus freshmen live in single-sex dorms.

Bradley said the mandatory action may be in effect by fall 2004.

Some students disagree with freshmen being limited to single-sex dorms.

Bardstown freshman Ashley Parks said she thinks making incoming freshmen stay in single-gender dorms will not affect safety issues.

“I don’t think it matters because anything can still happen,” Parks said. “You shouldn’t shelter the freshmen, they’re not going to know how to act.”

Bob Edwards, assistant vice president for University Relations, said Western intends to implement the list of recommendations, but some take more financial consideration and planning.

“Some are already in process, but some take money,” he said.

Improving the lighting on campus was among the recommendations.

Bradley said the lighting problem is quickly being improved, and every fall a group is taken around campus to check lighting.

Bradley suggested students use campus services, such as the escort service, instead of walking alone at night.

“If a person doesn’t feel comfortable they will escort you to class – that is what they are there for,” he said.

Deane recommends students to be responsible to help ensure their safety on campus.

“If you are going out, tell a friend or roommate where you’re going,” Deane said. “Don’t leave strangers alone in your room.”

Bradley also said he thinks campus safety can be achieved through students taking extra precaution.

“I believe that our campus is very safe, saying that there are proper precautions people should take,” Bradley said. “It isn’t good idea to leave CDs clear in your car at night.”

Littell said the recommendations are for the benefit of all students, not just students living on campus.

Students should be aware of their surroundings, he said.

“We didn’t want to create resident living as undesirable,” Littell said. “But give residents their independence and make sure they have all the knowledge they need.”

Students become too comfortable with their surroundings and let their guard down, Littell said.

“It’s important to remember that there are people who want to do harm no matter how safe the campus is,” he said.

Reach Kandace Sebastian at [email protected]