On the University of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety webpage, Chief Matt Clark writes, “We believe that everyone deserves a safe and secure learning environment.”
Yet on the department’s safety tips page, one of the listed tips is to simply “walk safe.” According to the department, the way to walk safely is to “walk in groups and choose well lit routes.” But it is hard to walk safely when you can be ambushed in broad daylight.
On January 16th, 2020, a violent robbery occurred while a student was walking out of Territorial Hall, a freshman dorm situated on the highly populated Super Block, at 10:14 am. Happening in broad daylight, the timing of this crime shocked students and other members of the campus community.
We believe that the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Police Department (UMPD) should increase their efforts to make campus safer. It’s hard to focus on your academic work when you feel like you have to constantly be on guard when walking to class, home from the library or walking out of your dorm.
As a way to inform and protect its students, the University of Minnesota sends out SAFE-U notifications, text and email alerts about recently reported crime on campus. While these notifications are effective at keeping students aware of any unsafe activity occurring on campus, they do not prevent future crimes.
In an interview with the Minnesota Daily published on January 26, 2020, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel ensured that the University is making strides in protecting students. While UMPD is hiring three more officers due to the spike in on-campus crime, Gabel believes that increasing police and security presence is not enough to reduce crime rates. “It’s about an entire sense of being a neighbor, and we have to work to do there,” she said.
Lack of campus safety is not exclusive to the University of Minnesota. According to the University of Iowa’s 2019 crime statistics report, there were a reported 63 burglaries on campus between the years 2016-2018, and 58 reported aggravated assaults. Even for a large university with over 30,000 students, this amount of crime against students is staggering, especially since this crime rate does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.
We reached out to UMPD for a statement while writing this piece. In an email to the Daily Editorial Board, UMPD’s public information officer Lacey Nygard sent links to various safety resources for students, including university security guards, who patrol campus buildings, and the Public Safety Emergency Communications Center, which is responsible for placing the “blue light” security phones around campus.
College students have a right to feel safe on campus. It is clear that UMPD is working to keep students safe, but with crime increasing, SAFE-U notifications and online safety tips are not enough to protect students. While we recognize that it is impossible for campus police and security to completely prevent crime, especially at a large university in a metropolitan area , it is paramount that we begin to see more action being taken to ensure student safety, and in turn, maintain our campus learning environment.