Debate On Campus Safety Continues
By: Danielle Woodward
It’s a dark, late night as you’re walking across MSU’s campus to your dorm, maybe from a long night at the library or a wild party. How safe do you feel?
According to the MSU Police Department crime and fire log, there have been 12 reported cases of assault since Sept. 1.
As on any campus, students wonder what can and is being done to make MSU the safest it can be, and what can they do to protect themselves against assault.
“I think everyone would feel a lot safer if they (MSU police) actually had a presence on campus,” said Colleen Sutherland, a political science, pre-law junior, “So people knew if they were to be attacked somewhere, there would be a security guard or at least something nearby to help.”
Brittany Gunn, a human biology sophomore, agreed, saying she rarely ever sees campus security patrolling the area, something she would need to see a lot more of in order to feel safe while walking the campus at night.
“I know the officers are out there because they are not at the station,” said MSU Police Department Officer Florene McGlothian-Taylor, “A lot of times they aren’t in marked vehicles. We have officers on motorcycles and bicycles patrolling and a lot of times officers will park their cars somewhere and walk around campus.”
The MSU Police Department claims in its annual security and fire safety report, updated Oct. 1, to have over 171 “Green Light” emergency telephones located across campus that call the MSU Police dispatch center directly providing “voice contact” and pinpointing the call’s location.
For some students, these emergency telephones do not provide much comfort, due to rumors circulating that they don’t all work. Jessica Mitchell, a criminal justice sophomore, represented a number of students interviewed in saying she felt they should be tested more regularly.
A member of Women’s Council who wished to remain anonymous said after Women’s Council tested each of these emergency telephones last fall, over half got no response after waiting two to three hours, and the quickest response time for the others was never under 30 minutes.
“It really disturbs me that the green light system doesn’t seem to be working very well on campus,” Catherine Bargerstock, a Residential College in the Arts and Humanities sophomore, ”Because I always see maintenance fixing it and I have had friends that have tested the green light and the response time is despicable.”
“We test those (Green Lights) on a regular basis,” said McGothian-Taylor, “We have about 370 that, if not tested on a weekly basis, are tested every two weeks. When we are notified of problems they are repaired, so it is important to let us know when these tests are done.”
McGlothian-Taylor also pointed out that the calls may not have worked because to dial a local number, you must put in the numbers 1-517 firste.
McGlothian-Taylor said that recently the MSU Police Department was talking about replacing the emergency phones that don’t work with towers with speakers that will hopefully reach out to individuals faster.
After talking to male students on campus, it seemed many do not feel at risk or at least noticeably less at risk than females.
“I feel safe,” said Niko Waters, a zoology sophomore, “Whether I’m alone or in a group, but then again I’m not a woman so I think that may come into play. Not to be sexist but I just feel that there are a lot more people out there to get women than men.”
Bryan Rourke, an advertising junior, also said that while he feels a little worried walking around campus at night, he is much more worried for females. He feels they are a much easier target and tries not to let them walk home alone at night.
East Lansing Police Lt. Tom VanDerWoude said he believes that this is a smart strategy for all students, male or female.
“There is safety in numbers. I highly recommend never going anywhere by yourself and utilizing the ‘Buddy System’,” said VanDerWoude.
“Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings,” said McGlothian-Taylor, “Don’t walk around on your cell phone or listening to your iPod at night. Every person I walk by, I look at them so I would be able to identify them and give a description of them if necessary.”
McGlothian-Taylor also recommends investing in pepper spray or an emergency whistle.
Sutherland says she will call her boyfriend or a friend to walk her home from the library if it is dark when she leaves. Rebecca Jarvis, a packaging freshman, on the other hand, says she prefers to have friends drive her where she needs to be at night because she is terrified to walk the campus in the dark.
For students who do not have a friend to walk or drive them places in the dark, other options are available.
According to their website, Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) center offers the Night Owl bus service. This provides transportation anywhere on campus from 2 a.m. – 7 a.m. Monday-Friday, and 2 a.m. – 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, when other CATA bus services are not running.
As for resources available to victims of assault, McGlothian-Taylor said, “We encourage people to make sure they come to us so we can refer them to the proper resources and appropriate counseling center.”
According to VanDerWoude, an assault and battery misdemeanor can be punishable with anything up to a 93-day sentence and $500 charges. However, the punishment could be as little as community service time if the attacker does not have a prior record, said McGlothian-Taylor.