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Student government discusses off-campus safety issues

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, January 29, 2009

Student body vice president Grant Schmidt said off-campus safety is an important student concern, and he looked to senators for feedback on student government’s role in addressing this issue at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting.

“In terms of going off campus at night, the general consensus, at least among my friends, is that [students] feel unsafe,” Student Outreach committee chair Sarah Rodts said.

Lewis Hall senator Robin Brown agreed, stating that in her personal experience, girls are cautious to venture off campus.

“Some of my girlfriends hesitate to stay off-campus pretty late because if you call the cabs, they say it’s an hour wait, and then students walk back to campus,” she said.

Brown said she knew several girls who have been in the uncomfortable position of having to walk back to campus alone at 4 a.m.

However, several senators said students are willing to go off campus at night, and actually fear the police more than other dangers associated with South Bend.

Siegfried Hall senator Ryan Hawley said he believes most students don’t worry about the safety of going off-campus as much as being punished by South Bend police for underage drinking.

“It’s the possibility of getting caught,” he said. “I think that’s most students’ number one concern.”

Chief executive assistant Karen Koski said student government’s role in addressing these concerns so far has primarily been raising student awareness.

“Encouraging students to be proactive about their safety is something that really has been a focus of ours,” she said.

Koski indicated last night’s talk by attorney C.L. Lindsay about students’ legal rights off campus as student government’s most recent effort in educating students about off-campus safety.

Schmidt said student government is also looking into creating a Web site that would act as an open forum for students to air grievances and state their concerns about “town-gown” relations and their safety off-campus.

“We are looking more to separate from telling specific stories and have more of a student poll on issues that have been going on,” he said.

Another idea that has been broached is implementing a system where students can use prepaid cards to pay for cabs when traveling off-campus, Schmidt said. However, this idea is complicated by the numerous cab companies that operate in South Bend.

Regarding other transportation options, senators asked why Notre Dame does not have its own bus that shuttles students to and from locations off-campus. Schmidt said Notre Dame’s non-central location in South Bend makes a bus system not feasible.

Schmidt said improving student relations with South Bend residents is a step in the right direction to achieving a safe situation for students off campus. The off-campus discount booklets, which give discounted prices for students at businesses in town will foster better “town-gown” relations, he said.

The booklets will be sold for $10 at the LaFortune box office on Feb. 1.

“Ultimately, there will be a more established relationship [between Notre Dame and South Bend] and you won’t see as many issues,” Schmidt said.

In other Senate news:

u Student Senate passed a resolution formally commending the Office of Information Technologies for working with student government to put printers in every dorm on campus.

u Student body president Bob Reish said he has spoken with the student government presidents of Northwestern University and Washington University about the Midwest Intercollegiate Council, which will take place late March or early April.

u Gender Issues committee chair Patrick Tighe said he will participate in a steering committee created to examine the University’s policies for dealing with sexual assault.