Improving student safety
Peter Elliott | Friday, September 2, 2011
Last Wednesday, I attended the Safety Summit at Irish Green sponsored by student government. It was an enjoyable experience complete with prudent partying tips given by friendly representatives of the five major police agencies in the South Bend/Mishawaka area. I applaud the genuine efforts of student body president Patrick McCormick in addressing the problems in the relationship between Notre Dame students and the police.
While these efforts should be commended, there remains a number of issues that a controlled Q&A session in the most inconvenient location on campus cannot adequately address. Most Notre Dame students have little experience in dealing with police and the court system. This lack of exposure begets an ignorance of the justice system which poses a real threat to student safety. Who really knows what receiving a Minor in Consumption ticket means? What’s the penalty? Will this follow me for the rest of my life? What if I was arrested and subjected to abuse? Who can I report to? There are so many facets and intricacies involved in even the most basic cases that it can overwhelm students who, other than a particular instance, have been model citizens.
Until the University seriously gets involved in addressing student-police relations, we will continue to see the same issues in student-police relations. Being safe off-campus should be an idea ingrained into every student at the start of Frosh-O and continue all four years. The University’s laissez-faire approach to student safety off campus has left generations of off-campus students ill-equipped to deal with the community. I would like to see the University employ resources toward educating students about Indiana alcohol statues, relevant case law in regards to home entry by police and legal courses of action a student can take should he or she violate a statue. In addition, I would like to see an avenue where students can voice their complaints about possible police abuse, or if such an avenue exists, make it more widely known about the general student population. Notre Dame has enacted sweeping positive changes in the University’s sexual assault policy. I believe similar progress could be made in improving student safety off campus.