Campus groups start student safety committee

The group is composed of multiple members from University groups and will start making changes next semester.

Max Chao

Various campus groups formed a student-safety committee in response to a report that revealed how some students feel unsafe at the University of Minnesota and its surrounding neighborhoods.

On Nov. 3, a committee of University entities, including student government and administrative bodies, held its first meeting to discuss ways to help students feel safer on campus. 

At an Oct. 24 forum meeting, the Minnesota Student Association announced recommendations they would present to the safety-focused committee. 

Recommendations included expanding Gopher Chauffeur operation to six days a week, increased lighting on and off campus, an app that consolidates free transportation options offered by the University, the creation of a new UMPD student advisory council and expanded bus routes. 

“It’s… trying to create a unified vision about how we can all contribute to make campus safer,” said Trish Palermo, president of the Minnesota Student Association. 

The committee was created by vice president of University Relations Mike Berthelsen and interim vice provost for Student Affairs Maggie Towle in October after MSA conducted a campus-wide safety survey in September. 

“It felt like a good opportunity for us to coordinate… the organizational thoughts and plans for safety with the voice of students,” Berthelsen said. 

The survey found that 38 percent of respondents felt somewhat unsafe in the Southeast Como neighborhood and 37 percent felt somewhat unsafe in the Cedar-Riverside area.

Over 34 percent of respondents said they were hesitant to go to campus at night due to feeling unsafe.

Many students feared victimization on campus, with a disproportionate amount of women and students who lived further from campus, said Mark Ruprecht, research and data coordinator for MSA. 

“It was not surprising, it more so [confirmed] existing beliefs on what the atmosphere was like,” he said.

Berthelsen said while there hasn’t been an increase in crime on campus, strategizing before anything happens is ideal.

“For real safety to exist, you need to feel safe and be safe. One without the other is insufficient,” he said.  

While Berthelsen welcomes recommendations, he wants to identify root problems first before proposing solutions.

Members of the group include Boynton Health Services, the Council of Graduate Students, the Professional Student Government, MSA, Off-Campus Living, Parking and Transportation Services, University of Minnesota Police Department, University Relations and Greek life groups. 

The committee will hold five additional meetings before the January, their deadline for a full report of proposals.