With more safety events, U seeks student input

University leaders say they need students’ help to make their frequent events useful.

by Haley Hansen

With this school year’s uptick in violent crime on and around the University of Minnesota campus, officials have held more events focused on safety than in years past.

But University leaders say those events need more input from students to be effective.

University Services Vice President Pam Wheelock said communicating with students and getting their feedback on safety issues can be difficult.

“Trying to find an effective way to do outreach is really an ongoing challenge for us,” she said. “We’d love some feedback on what would be some effective ways to share information and engage them in the discussion.”

Instead of using mainly email to promote safety initiatives, University officials should look for alternative means to contact students, some students say.

Entrepreneurial management and management information systems junior Tyler Douglas attended a Student Safety Town Hall meeting Wednesday night. Though he found out about the event via email, he said he often glances at his inbox and ignores safety messages.

Freshman Emily Jakubowski said her parents have encouraged her to attend University-sponsored safety events, but she often forgets about them.

“It’s really easy to overlook your email,” she said.

So far this semester, the University has sponsored four major events focused on public safety.

But last year, University Services spokesman Tim Busse said the only University-sponsored safety events were the two “Coffee and Donuts with the Cops.”

Busse said the University would like more students to attend its safety events because their input can affect policy decisions and help students stay safer.

“Events like this might get them thinking a little differently about safety on and around campus,” he said.

But with students’ busy schedules, Wheelock said, it can be difficult for students to find time for safety events.

“It’s a commitment by a student to spend that time here rather than in the library or at a class or at the rec center or having a meal.”

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who chairs the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, said events promoting public safety are critical.

“Safety is priceless. The more we talk about it and the more we get students involved in the conversation, the better ideas we’ll have around it,” she said.

But some students still say they don’t give much thought to the safety events. Mass communications sophomore Madeline Davis said she doesn’t pay attention to the public safety update emails because she doesn’t believe campus safety has improved.

While eliminating crime is unrealistic, University police Chief Greg Hestness said the University is doing all it can to make the areas on and around campus safer. He said safety initiatives can be helpful in defining how prevalent crime around campus really is.

“I don’t want students to be fearful, but I also don’t want them to be naïve that there aren’t issues,” Hestness said.