Student safety sometimes neglected

A University Police Department patrol vehicle. File Photo.

Campus security is a huge factor when it comes to touring and inquiring about campuses.

It is not uncommon for tour guides to point out the Emergency Call stations located around campus. This is often enough to quell  any concerns of parents and prospective students with thoughts of late night travels from the library or class.

This is North Dakota, right? What could happen?

In light of the recent email about the “Red Zone” (which I have many issues with), safety worries for students and faculty are again being shared.

We are fortunate enough to have our own police department located on campus that can be seen patrolling University Avenue, especially on weekend nights. The department even gained a new officer, Ben, the drug dog (who I still need to pet). Considering this police presence, one would think a student or faculty member would feel safe walking across campus, day or night, no matter their gender.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

When I was a sophomore, I was known as “two chocolate chip pancakes” by the breakfast workers in Wilkerson’s dining center. One worker, also a student, was telling me one morning how she didn’t like having to walk so far alone when it was so dark in the mornings. She called UPD inquiring about the possibility of them providing a safe ride to where she needed to be and they told her, verbatim, “they weren’t a taxi service.” Now, what did that email state? “Take the campus shuttle or call University Police (701-777-3491) for an escort.”

Hmm. Isn’t that interesting?

That same year, a female student was assaulted in between O’Kelly and Gillette halls at just 8 p.m. and a male student was mugged by three other young men (presumably students as well?) on campus. Eight o’clock is not very late, however, the sun sets earlier and earlier as the academic year progresses into winter and it is definitely not later than any evening class’s end time.

That area is not hidden away in a corner away from light, streets or people. That’s a high trafficked area, by pedestrians as well as vehicles driving down Centennial. And, from my memory, the mugging took place along University, definitely the street with the most traffic on campus.

Where was UPD during these events, of which are not the only ones that occurred on campus? Are patrols to look for drunk and disorderly students going to and from parties rather than looking out for students who may be in danger?

Upon discussing this with a friend who is a part of Greek life, she voiced concerns of her own: There had been sightings of a man who parks outside of their house for long periods. She told me they reported this once before to UPD and got little in response to the call. The girls of the house again reported again, in fear of their safety, and was told that they would be taking care of it. My friend didn’t seem convinced or feel any safer.

It is incredibly sad that our officers are more seen as a source of fear and punishment — givers of minors, noise violations and drug busts — than courageous protectors.

As much as the Emergency Call posts are helpful, they simply are not located in enough areas ,nor are those areas very well lit or patrolled. I’m aware it is impossible to have eyes everywhere all of the time, but if there were less stress on giving partygoers minors and more of an emphasis on making sure people are not in danger — alcohol poisoning, overdosing, date-rape drugs, physical or sexual assault, robbery, etc. We are not all drug dealers or crazy partiers; but we are all students and every single one of us — no matter ethnicity, gender, age, religion, football fans, hockey fans, engineering majors or undecided majors.

We are UND and campus is not only our education, it is our home. Home should be a safe place; we all are responsible to play our role in keeping each other safe.

Steph Gartner is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].