Students’ views on campus safety differ

Jesse Weisbeck

It’s dark. A lone student walks briskly down Washington Avenue, huddled against the cold. A figure emerges from a nearby hall and approaches the unsuspecting pedestrian from behind. The stranger reaches out a hand and … introduces herself as a personal security escort.
Students say they feel campus safety is strong right now, thanks to measures like the escort service and vigorous University Police activity.
But easy access to residence halls has some concerned, as does safety in areas where there are many bars, like Stadium Village and Dinkytown.
“It depends where you’re at,” said Amiee Lau, a Frontier Hall resident and College of Liberal Arts junior.
For some, the bars look like a potential source for trouble.
“At night, on the east end of campus, I’ve seen some problems arise,” said David Pearl, a senior in environmental studies.
Dormitories, Lau said, are also a concern. Residence hall accessibility allowed an ex-boyfriend to continually harass Lau, she said.
“All you have to do is give them the name and they’ll let you in,” she said.
The campus has about 200 sites with some kind of security, ranging from video monitoring to panic buttons. Campus buildings also contain sensors designed to detect intruders, said Jim Gregory, manager of the University’s electronic security systems.
But the student residence halls have less security because it is so expensive, Gregory said. And incidents, including harassments and thefts, have residents concerned.
The new Roy Wilkins Hall isn’t as easy to get into as the older halls; electronic card access makes it difficult for strangers to get in.
Gregory said he has been trying to get card access in the other halls, but costs to implement the systems are as high as $100,000.
But students in residence halls might be compromising their own safety. Students use emergency dormitory exits to sneak in alcohol and friends, which compromises their own safety, Gregory said.
In general, the University has recently experienced an increase in arrests around campus as well as a decrease in violent crimes.
One major student safety measure on campus is the blue light emergency phones scattered around the campuses. There are 20 such emergency phones in all, 12 scattered on the east and west banks, and eight on the St. Paul campus.
The chance of catching a criminal are high when the crimes are reported from the blue light emergency phones, said University Police Detective Marianne Olson.
The phones automatically dial the University Police when the user picks up the receiver and pushes a small button. The blue light is intended to draw the attention of passersby, Olson said.
“My sense is that there hasn’t been that much of a demand to use them in emergencies,” said Paul Tschida, assistant vice president for Health Safety and Transportation. “But it’s gotten a lot of positive response on campus.”
Ralee Weiss, College of Liberal Arts senior, said the campus feels safe to her.
“In my experience, if you ask for help, you’ll get a really good follow through with the police.”