MSA members and city officials discuss campus safety during late-night walk

The MSA Infrastructure Committee discussed safety concerns with officials during an evening walk through campus and surrounding neighborhoods

Hannah Ovcharchyn

The street lamps down 14th Avenue Southeast were barely bright enough to see Austin Kraft eagerly discuss campus safety.

Kraft, the infrastructure committee director for the Minnesota Student Association, and four other MSA members held a safety walk Thursday night to raise awareness about security issues affecting the University of Minnesota campus.

The members lead several city officials on a two-mile walk through the residence hall Superblock, up north to TCF Bank Stadium and around Dinkytown. The students stopped intermittently during the 75-minute walk to show a lack of lighting and other security measures around campus.

The idea of a safety walk was inspired by an MSA safety survey conducted last fall, Kraft said. Out of 723 respondents, 65 percent said improved lighting would make them feel safer when navigating campus and surrounding neighborhoods. 

MSA members were quick to point out a burnt-out light on Delaware St. SE, another near the 4th St. parking ramp and a faulty crosswalk sensor near Mariucci Arena. Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association Executive Director Chris Lautenschlager discussed safety on the Dinkytown Greenway and his desire to create a connection between the road and trails below.

MSA member Katie Szarkowicz was concerned about the lack of code blue emergency telephones, especially when she first toured the campus. These phones, located on blue-lighted posts across campus, are connected to the University of Minnesota Police Department. When the button is pressed, UMPD should arrive within 30 seconds.

But Szarkowicz expected to see more blue lights after touring several other colleges before her freshman year. “That’s actually one of the reasons that I decided to join infrastructure,” she said.

As the group trekked across campus, Szarkowicz pointed to insufficient lighting around popular student housing complexes. The MSA freshmen in the group said they do not travel toward Dinkytown at night due to dim lighting and fear of crime.

The average student feels safer in Como and Cedar-Riverside than they do around Dinkytown, according to MSA’s safety survey.

Ward 3 Minneapolis City Council member Steve Fletcher said the student-led walk helped elected officials understand which areas need more attention. 

“I always think it’s better to get out and look at the streets [if] we’re talking about how to improve them,” Fletcher said. “We definitely saw some places that aren’t lit to the level we would want them to be, for pedestrian safety, for crime safety … I think there’s a lot of reasons to improve lighting.”

To brighten the streets, officials suggest homeowners leave their porch lights on at night. LED bulbs were recommended if electricity costs prove to be an issue.

Fletcher said he plans to pursue funds to help University students. He also said he wants to invite MSA members to share their experiences with other Minneapolis City Council members to help “broaden the conversation”.

“I’m hoping that we can translate this into some action on behalf of the students,” Kraft said.