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Task force created to target student safety

Kaitlynn Riely | Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Student safety, both on campus and off, dominated discussion at the Campus Life Council (CLC) meeting Monday.

Members unanimously voted to create an ad-hoc task force to address student safety concerns in light of recent violence against students while off campus. Hall Presidents Council co-chair Katie Cordelli was unanimously approved as the chair of the Student Safety task force.

Student body president Lizzi Shappell said student safety has become a pressing concern.

“It’s a hot issue among the student body,” she said.

The CLC discussed the topics the ad-hoc group could tackle this year. Alumni senator Danny Smith said the goal of the task force should be to address the prevention of violence against students as quickly as possible.

“We want to make off-campus kids feel safe as well as on-campus kids,” Smith said.

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs G. David Moss said the transition from Notre Dame’s campus to an off-campus apartment or house is a transition from a safe environment to a less secure one. He said students sometimes fail to realize this shift when they go off-campus.

“This is one of the safest campuses in the country … so we do have an unrealistic feeling of safety in this place that is not transferred outside of Notre Dame,” Moss said. “We need to make people aware that when you live on West LaSalle, it’s not the same as living on campus.”

Breen-Phillips rector Rachel Kellogg said students tend to be clueless when it comes to staying safe off campus.

“This sort of naivety, this ‘everybody’s nice here’ thing, they just extend that to walking home alone from Turtle Creek at [2 a.m.],” Kellogg said.

Knott Hall rector Brother Jerome Meyer said the CLC should meet with Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) to discuss ways to keep students secure. He warned against offending NDSP by telling them they are not doing a good job.

Kellogg also said an attitude of respect is important when talking to both NDSP and the South Bend Police Department (SBPD). The CLC should not accuse the police forces of failing to do their jobs, she said, but should present them with their concerns.

Off-campus senator Mark Healy suggested the CLC work with NDSP and SBPD to encourage them to accept the fact that every weekend thousands of students will leave campus and enter South Bend.

Faculty Senate representative professor Kelly Jordan touched on police-student tensions raised by the recent raid at Turtle Creek Apartments. He said students need to compromise as well and recognize that when they drink underage, they are breaking the law.

“The tone and tenor that I’ve seen in the South Bend Tribune and in The Observer is ‘Why are the South Bend police targeting us as students?’ But I haven’t seen from the students ‘Yes, we understand underage drinking is wrong,'” Jordan said. “I think that there’s going to be a little give and take here that people have to be willing to exercise.”

Cordelli said the perception that all students who live off-campus are throwing huge parties is incorrect. She said the police should make keeping students safe a priority.

Healy said the task force should encourage students to take a cab rather than walk home through South Bend at night.

Members briefly discussed how to inform students about safety precautions or crime alerts. Judicial Council president Liz Kozlow said the task force should investigate creative ways to disperse this information, since many students do not open the e-mail alerts.

“The most important thing is to figure out how to access all students,” Kozlow said.

The task force plans to discuss on-campus safety, especially during football season when thousands of Notre Dame and opposing fans swarm to the campus.

Some members of the council shared stories of Penn State fans invading dorm hallways and non-residents sleeping in dorm social spaces this past weekend.

“Everyone’s just so kind,” said Welsh Family rector Candace Carson. “They let people in and they don’t know who they are.”

In other CLC news:

uThree task forces and three task force chairs were unanimously approved. Smith will chair the Student Concerns task force, Student Body vice president Bill Andrichik will chair Conduct Awareness, and chief executive officer Liz Brown will chair Student Voice and Input.