St. Paul students want in on safety talks

Some students say St. Paul isn’t given sufficient attention with University-wide safety issues.

by Hailey Colwell

With most attention on the University of Minnesota area’s recent increase in violent crime focused on Minneapolis neighborhoods, students on the St. Paul campus are looking to get more involved in safety talks.

Though the area around the Minneapolis campus has seen more crime this fall, some students say St. Paul is often left out of campus-wide discussions, and they’re looking to be more active with safety initiatives for the smaller campus.

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Student Board recently passed a resolution to begin developing a safety program that would reach out specifically to St. Paul campus students.

“We don’t want to have to wait for something to happen,” said Kyle Meagher, secretary for the CFANS Student Board.

Rylee Ahnen, an officer with the board and a CFANS student senator, said there has been frequent discussion about campus safety within the Minnesota Student Association, a group he works closely with.

“It just kind of seemed like the St. Paul campus was being a little underrepresented in those discussions,” Ahnen said.

St. Paul may not always seem on the same playing field when it comes to “Minneapolis-centric” discussions like safety, said Bill Ganzlin, CFANS Student Services director and adviser to the student board.

The most recent crime alert for an incident on the St. Paul campus was sent to the University community in July 2010, when a student was assaulted in the early morning.

Still, Ahnen said the student board wants to be “proactive rather than reactive” about campus safety measures and prevent crime.

The CFANS Student Board isn’t pointing fingers at the University or MSA for St. Paul’s past underrepresentation in campus discussions, Ahnen said. Instead, he said, board members are trying to lead the campus’ safety efforts and start a dialogue between the two campuses about how they can work together.

Ahnen said the students plan to create a group to help teach safety on the St. Paul campus and advocate for specific changes in the future that could make the campus safer, such as installing more street lights or asking for a stronger police presence.

Establishing the task force would involve reaching out to students from the College of Biological Sciences and St. Paul student groups, Ahnen said. He said the student board hopes to start forming the task force before winter break.

University Services communications director Tim Busse said the St. Paul campus is equipped with the same standard security devices found on the Minneapolis campus, like card-swipe door access and police patrols.

Because the St. Paul campus area hasn’t experienced the same recent crime as Minneapolis, the University has not had to respond with a large increase in patrols, Busse said.

In terms of long-term campus safety plans, he said, University Services is looking into adding more card-swipe entrances and security cameras on both campuses.

Busse said the campus security escort program  receives only a couple of calls per night from the St. Paul campus, a number that hasn’t increased much this fall.

Because the St. Paul campus doesn’t historically have a student group that communicates  concerns to the greater student body, Ahnen said, the CFANS Student Board is preparing to step into that role.

Meagher said the group is also looking to better connect with student government and other University entities to make sure St. Paul students are considered.

“Our influence may be greater than we think sometimes,” Meagher said.

Interior design sophomore Samantha Klapperick lives on West Bank but takes all of her classes on the St. Paul campus. Klapperick said she has noticed students on the St. Paul campus taking more safety precautions lately, and one professor added an alternative final time for students who don’t want to travel to campus at night.

“Once it starts getting dark, people will start leaving campus,” she said.

Though St. Paul students might not be as recognized when it comes to safety discussions, Klapperick said, she thinks they have the right to be involved.

“They’re still all University students,” she said.