Campus is not as safe for night-class students

by Jennifer Niemela

University student L.O. knows about campus crime.
The College of Liberal Arts junior, who requested that her real name be withheld to protect her identity, was riding her bike home from an extension class fall quarter when she was pulled to the ground by a blond man of medium height who then attacked her. Although she was able to get away by kicking the man in the chest, the experience left her shaken.
“I was so frightened,” she said. “I couldn’t feel safe, it was like I couldn’t get away from him.”
L.O. said her friends assumed she wouldn’t take extension classes anymore because of the attack, which occurred at about 8 p.m. — just when night classes are beginning to end. But because she works during the day, she says she has no choice but to continue taking extension classes.
“I need to work 25 to 30 hours a week at a University job,” she said. “If I can’t fit in a class during the day, I have to take it at night.”
University College addressed the issue of the safety of students who take night classes on Tuesday at Ed Fest, an open house in Nolte Hall. For the first time in its four-year history, the event had a room devoted solely to student safety. The approximately 80 students who attended the open house could talk with University Police, 624-WALK escorts and Sexual Violence Prevention Program representatives.
Craig Lowning, president of the student board, said safety is a major concern for students who take night classes because they typically drive to a parking lot that is some distance from their classes, and their classes let out after dark.
“We’re trying to provide pro-active information,” said Lowning. “Students have indicated that safety is a concern for them.”
University Police Detective Marianne Olson, who ran a booth at the open house, said that although fear about assault on campus may be higher than it should be, caution is still warranted when walking around campus at night.
“Extension students are concerned about different issues (than day students),” said Olson, noting that day students are typically worried about theft, while extension students cite personal safety as their main concern. “No (after-dark) pattern of assaults has been established, but personal safety is always important.”
Olson recommended that University College students get to know classmates who park in the same lot and with whom they can walk after dark. She also recommended calling the University escort service, 624-WALK.
Ben Schnabel, a University escort, said extension students make up one-third to one-half of their clients.
“From 8:00 to 9:30 is the busiest time for us,” Schnabel said. “We take a lot of people out to the transit lots.”
Schnabel said that people who bike to campus can call 624-WALK as long as they tell the dispatcher that they need a bike escort.
Sue McCarthy, a graduate student who takes extension classes, said she is very conscious of her surroundings as she walks to and from her class at night.
“I feel safe only because I’ve made choices to feel safe,” said McCarthy, who parks in the same garage as a friend from her class. “It is kind of spooky.”
Olson said that precautions like McCarthy’s are smart and important.
“Personal safety is a choice,” she said. “The way our society has become, people need to take precautions in their actions.”