Employees take new precautions after fall’s uptick in crime

Faculty and staff are turning to self-defense classes and other resources.

Fernando Nunez

With fall semester’s uptick in crime on and near the University of Minnesota campus, some University employees are concerned for their safety.

In response, some faculty and staff members are turning to self-defense classes to help them feel more comfortable on campus.

Journalism assistant professor Giovanna Dell’Orto said she organized a women’s self-defense class for her colleagues last semester because she became worried about crime, particularly armed robberies, on and near campus.

 “I know that the police and others have said that crime is actually falling, but there’s certainly never been more crime alerts in the time that I’ve been at the University of Minnesota, which is now six years,” Dell’Orto said.

The University is working to improve its safety education and self-defense courses for both students and employees, said Danita Brown Young, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students.

University police currently offer several self-defense courses, including one specifically for female employees and students.

Cherrene Horazuk, president of the University of Minnesota Clerical Workers union, said she has heard concerns about campus safety from some union members.

“I would say that the concerns are higher amongst the younger women in our work force and our membership who would appear more like they’re students, and I think some of the crime seems to be targeted more at the student population,” she said.

About 90 percent of the University’s clerical workers union is female, Horazuk said.

“Especially if you’re a female, you’re always very aware of not being by yourself after dark,” Dell’Orto said.

Though the University already offers self-defense courses, Horazuk said the union is planning to offer a class of its own this semester after a union member said they didn’t feel safe walking around campus.

A former union member, who is also a professional self-defense trainer, offered to help design the course, Horazuk said.

“There may be other resources that are out there for the University community as a whole, but we decided to take that on independently and to offer that for our members,” she said.

Vice President of University Services Pam Wheelock said improving safety education initiatives is one of several ways the University is working to address safety concerns.

Wheelock said she has also noticed a particular interest in safety education from female employees at the University.

“We have had more interest, I think, from some of the women staff and faculty about maybe a refresher on self-defense classes that might be available to them,” she said.