University officials sounded warnings this week after the alleged abduction and attack of a female student. Officials suggested students take additional safety precautions in the University area and e-mailed them a link to maps of code blue emergency phones on campus. These maps clearly indicate the code blue emergency phone system is not a viable way for students to protect themselves.
Students who fear they are being followed or are pursued by an attacker can run to a phone with a blue light, pick it up, and police will be immediately dispatched. However, the University’s system is ineffective because there are simply not enough phones. Maps show only eight such phones on the entire East Bank – and one at the Huron Boulevard lots – which means people will come across one about every five blocks, or one for about every eight university buildings. There are no phones along either side of the river or the northeast side of University Avenue. The phone system is equally poor on the West Bank, where there are only four phones, and on the St. Paul campus, where there are seven (and also one at Lot S-104).
The University already suffers from inadequate lighting and under-trained campus escorts. Last week’s attack was not an anomaly – University police reported 42 forcible sex offenses between 2000 and 2001.
University officials might have e-mailed us links to the code blue emergency maps, but few people even know what they are, in part because they are not visible. We need more code blue emergency phones in isolated areas, including along the river, on the Washington Avenue Bridge and between student parking facilities and campus buildings.
Increased security is the only way we will be able to enjoy unique regional features like the riverfront. We are an urban university in a very natural environment, and must develop more adequate ways to protect students. Obviously, we cannot expect to wipe out the problem of crime on campus. We also cannot realistically expect any student under pursuit to run five blocks to a blue phone – if they can even find one.