Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Campus Safety

Yesterday, I planned to go swimming during the open pool hours, but then I received an email that the first and second floors of my residence hall were having a mandatory hall meeting at 9 PM. Unfortunately, this has been one of many hall meetings this semester to address various problems.

In September, when I moved in, myself and many residents of Webb, the senior-only dorm where we live, supported a restricted access policy. This means that while we love having our underclass friends come visit us, the safety issues on campus made us uncomfortable in our own dorm. There were random men walking through our dorms even in the first few weeks of classes, and many of us felt they had no reason to be inside this building. In the post-Virginia Tech era, I was really hoping that our campus security would crack down and make this a safe environment for all students, but unfortunately campus safety has followed the path of many administration responses to problems this semester and become a disappointment.

After members of campus found out how the 80 students living in this building felt, the problem was blown out of proportion. There were flyers all over campus claiming that we wanted a campus "lockdown" and that each building should be restricted only to residents of that building. That is not, in fact, what we wanted. As senior female residents living in a turbulent campus environment, we wanted to feel safe in our own rooms and supported restricted access to this dorm.

We let the idea go, since so many people on campus believed we wanted restriction on a grand scale. Student government looked at the idea and tabled it. There was not a consensus.

Since September, however, we have had numerous security problems. Coed or not, this campus MUST be a safe place for its students. Our Honor Code should be held in high regard, but at this point, we can't trust that will happen. For this reason, I have always been a proponent of restricted access. There are several key points to support the argument for restricted access:

1.Many other college campuses allow access to dorms only to the people who live there. Having spent a spring break at Harvard and a summer in Boston frequently visiting the Harvard campus, even there students had to buzz in or call ahead to be let into other dorms. Each dorm was staffed by a student at the door, as well.

2.Our dorm has limited security. We have no peepholes on our doors, no security at the entrance, and any student on this campus can enter this senior only dorm.

3. The laundry room in this dorm is located on the lower floor, and any student can enter that laundry room through a side door without entering senior residences. Therefore, there is no reason that non-residential Webb students should be roaming these halls, particularly first year men, because it makes us extremely uncomfortable.

4. While I truly love and respect the Honor Code here, I do not hold it above my own personal safety and that of my fellow residents. Given recent incidents, I believe that our case as senior women has only been proven: this campus is not what it used to be, and it is no longer safe.

What incidences?

1. Over fall break, a senior's laptop on the 2nd floor was stolen from her room.

2. Shortly after fall break, someone's personal belongings were stolen outside her room on the first floor here.

3. Living on the first floor where the bathroom is located, I have been upset with the many non-residents of this floor who use our bathroom and trash it. It makes the job difficult for our community advisor, who then has to find the culprit and force them to clean it up.

4. Two weekends ago, my friend Whitney was in her room on Saturday night after midnight. Someone was jiggling her door handle and pounding on the door, which was thankfully locked. Whitney threw the door open to find a drunk, unescorted (this is important because it is against our hall policy for men or female guests to be unescorted) man standing there, laughing. This scared Whitney and unnerved the rest of us.

5. This past weekend, a similar incident happened to a girl on the other side of the first floor. She refused to open her door and whoever it was finally left her alone.

6. Also this past weekend, another girl on the second floor of this building had her laptop stolen.

7. A drug deal occured in this area earlier in the year, which involved the police.

8. Several weeks ago, someone was setting off fireworks in the Dell (our outside ampitheater) and throwing smoke bombs at the residents of Webb smoking on the front lawn. This was called to Security and there was no response.

9. During the removal of the art from the Maier, a "bomb threat" statement was made to a student by a police officer. This statement was later proved false, although we only received an email saying such 24 hours after the fact. I feel that once ONE person makes a statement like that to a student, the student has every right to take that seriously. The entire campus should have been alerted to a potential danger. It should have been treated seriously and later diffused, not the reverse order.

Some may say that we can't blame these thefts on the male presence on campus, and that is true. What we can say is that in my time here at R-MWC, I have never felt unsafe. I have never had anything stolen from me. My first and second year roommate Nada and I frequently left our door unlocked if we were stepping out for a short time. The majority of students here leave their mailboxes unlocked. I have left my things on a table in the library to go get a drink and never seen them touched by anyone else. Most importantly, I felt like I was a safe woman inside my own room. That is no longer the case. Why are there people pounding on our doors who don't belong here? Why do we have to call Security to alert these things, but often see them fall to the wayside until a serious incident happens?

Visiting colleges four years ago, my mother and I were always impressed with the large numbers of protective parents who had one main concern about their childs transition to college: safety.

I wish I could say I'm surprised. I wish I could say that none of us senior women predicted such rampant problems. That's not true. We all feared that this was where our beloved college was headed, and I am even more disappointed that it takes 9 serious incidents before safety is even taken seriously.

Last night at our meeting, those who showed up overwhelmingly supported a 24 hour restricted access policy in this building. The main goal of this college should be to ensure the safety of all of those within it. It is unfortunate that something like this has only been taken seriously after months of demands by the students.

For now, I guess I have to wave goodbye to the Randolph-Macon of years past. Instead of the warm Honor community we must have, we now live in a community of fear and concern. Lock your doors, don't trust your community members, and play it safe.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I'm really, really sorry to hear about all this.

There were always occasional problems with theft in the dorms or creepy guys showing up uninvited, but what you've described sounds like more than would occur in a normal year before the change to co-ed.

-Kelly, '03