Security on and off campus
Observer staff | Friday, October 2, 2009
Last weekend, two Holy Cross students were kidnapped four blocks from campus. The
University responded with its obligatory “Student safety is a top priority” statement but offered no plan of action.
Last week’s kidnapping was not the first assault on the student community. In three years, there have been three shootings and an equal number of kidnappings. Students are assaulted and mugged; off-campus homes are vandalized on a regular basis. South Bend police continually warn students they are a target anytime they set foot off campus.
South Bend Police spokesman Capt. Phil Trent said off-campus crime toward students has remained steady in the past several years, but these crimes are still too prevalent.
The University can’t – and shouldn’t – be responsible for policing the surrounding community. They have neither the resources nor the jurisdiction. But the dichotomy that exists between on and off campus needs to be addressed. Currently, the administration’s only plan of action is to use the crime statistics as a means of discouraging students from moving off campus.
Encouraging this separation from our surrounding environment only compounds the problem. Town-gown relations are already strained, and the University’s hypocritical stance on community interactions isn’t helping the problem. The administration encourages students to become more involved outside of the metaphorical Notre Dame bubble while simultaneously discouraging students from moving off campus.
Most universities nationwide expect students to flee the dorms as soon as possible, with many providing university-owned housing and neighborhoods. Notre Dame, contrarily, focuses any off-campus expansion on preventing student housing developments and promoting faculty benefits. The University’s Gentrification Project on Notre Dame Ave. provides housing for professors near campus, promoting a safe environment for their employees. But when it comes to extending the same courtesy to students, the administration and its $5 billion endowment fall short on funds. Many of the 1,500 students that chose to move off campus this year are forced to settle for cheap homes in shady neighborhoods.
While on-campus student safety may be a priority for the administration, off-campus students do not receive the same consideration. Notre Dame has the ability to influence the surrounding community and establishing a secure student neighborhood would be the first step in combating the growing crimes against students.
Students, too, must accept their role in off-campus safety. Acting drunk in public will not attract any positive attention. Common sense and precaution should be used at all times. South Bend isn’t Mayfield and this isn’t 1960. Know the dangers you face when you go out and plan accordingly. Until the University and local law enforcement work to reduce the student assaults, students are responsible for their own well-being.