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USG leaders discuss residence hall security shortcomings

Student leaders speak about projects with Housing & Residential Life and what they have been hearing from students about safety in the residence halls.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

Student leaders are continuing to express frustration with the lack of residence hall security following several incidents of indecent conduct reported this fall in University of Minnesota bathrooms.

The University has been struggling with staffing shortages in several areas around campus since the beginning of the fall semester, including security, which led to a lack of security in the residence halls.

When asked how many security personnel the University is short, the University sent a statement about its current staffing. There are currently 50 full-time and student employees with the University actively recruiting more, according to the email statement sent to the Minnesota Daily.

“While hiring has been challenging in a variety of industries, we have seen positive progress with security staffing to help fill out our planned security schedules,” according to the statement.

The most recent indecent conduct bathroom incident reported via a SAFE-U alert occurred at Coffman Union on Nov. 15. This followed an Oct. 29 report of a peeping incident at a Middlebrook Hall shower, marking the third reported inappropriate bathroom incident at a residence hall this semester.

Since the October bathroom incidents 2021, USG has been pushing Housing and Residential Life (HRL) to add more security measures to residence hall bathrooms.

In May, HRL announced they were going to add locks to all residence hall bathrooms that currently lack them. This project has yet to be completed due to a supply shortage.

Second-year student Daniel Tobias, director of the USG infrastructure committee, said HRL is planning to add bathroom locks throughout the academic year, finishing in summer 2023 because replacing and reinstalling doors needs to occur after students have moved out of the residence halls.

While security in residence halls has remained the same as in the 2020-21 academic year, there have been staffing shortages following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to HRL Interim Director Susan Stubblefield.

Second-year student Erin Vos, USG campus life committee director, said security focuses on patrolling within the Superblock area and other residential hall areas where incidents have occurred in the past, such as Territorial Hall.

She said many of the students she works with do not feel safe in their residential halls despite the University’s continuous push for safety on and around campus.

“There is still an ongoing issue with the invasion of privacy, security reasons and the overall discomfort of living in the dorms,” Vos said.

Stubblefield wrote there are many other safety measures implemented within the residence halls along with the security patrols to ensure student safety. These include exterior doors that are locked 24/7 and can only be accessed by resident and staff UCards, security cameras located in public areas of the residence halls, staffed information desks and interior rounds conducted by community advisors throughout the week.

“We hope that we can increase interior security coverage in the future as University Security actively recruits and hires more staff,” Stubblefield wrote in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “We recognize that, like in so many other job sectors, hiring security personnel is particularly challenging right now.”

One of the reasons students may be struggling with feeling safe, according to Vos, is the over-admittance of students at the University. Compared to last year, there has been a 5% increase in enrollment.

“There are no spaces, accessible places for students to go if they do not feel either comfortable or safe by other students that might be making them uncomfortable,” Vos said. “There is not a lot of space for students to move.”

Vos said students felt because there are few open rooms, they would be unable to switch rooms if they felt unsafe.

However, according to Stubblefield, the size of the first-year class does not have an impact on providing housing for those who choose to live on campus.

“Students may have a perception that we are unable to make room changes because the building that a student desires to move to may not have a space for them, however, we have been able to accommodate a number of assignment change requests,” Stubblefield wrote.


Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Susan Stubblefield’s title. Stubblefield is HRL’s interim director. 

Clarification: Security has largely stayed the same since the 2020-21 academic year, but there have been staffing shortages following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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