Student body president Grant Schmidt delivered his first State of the Student Union address to the Student Senate during its meeting Wednesday, identifying off-campus safety as a top priority and urging students to be proactive against crime.
Schmidt commended the new developments on and around campus, but cautioned that safety could become an issue with more reasons for students to go off campus.
“With the construction of Eddy Street Commons, the newly-developed apartments east of campus including Irish Row and Irish Crossings, there are more reasons to go off campus,” Schmidt said. “There are students living in Northeast Neighborhood, restaurants in the area, parties at different locations, bars, the mall, the grocery store, etc.”
Schmidt said experiencing off-campus life is part of the college experience and that students should feel safe when they venture off campus.
“Half of what we want at Notre Dame is to of course become immersed in all that Notre Dame has to offer, but also, go out into the city of South Bend,” he said.
“Over 80 percent of our student body volunteers in those areas,” Schmidt said. “Students will and should feel free to visit, experience and at some point possibly live off campus.”
Schmidt said the student body has the impression that burglaries and assaults increased this year.
This is not necessarily correct, he said, and even though steps have been taken in the right direction, safety it is still a pressing concern for students and the University.
Schmidt said an off-campus Web site, which highlights important features of living and traveling off campus, was created this year. The University also donated $5.5 million to the surrounding areas of South Bend and created a new position for student government relations.
Student government is also in the process of working with TRANSPO to create a program to provide free transportation on and off campus. The main goal of the program is safety, Schmidt said.
“With the close proximity of most destinations in the area, it is often way too easy for students to walk home. Taxis are not always the best option for students in certain situations,” he said.
The program was not yet approved, he said.
“We must continue to work towards solutions to decrease the problems off campus,” he said. “There is no easy answer. Every solution that we come up with of course has its consequences.”
Schmidt said student government will continue to look into suggestions, such as surveillance and an increased police force in student areas. Federal and local grants could also be used to help support additional officers who would travel by foot or bike in at-risk areas of South Bend.
He said student government will continue to look to Notre Dame Security Police for support while also considering expanding their presence off campus.
Schmidt, student body vice president Cynthia Weber and chief of staff Ryan Brellenthin will present to the Board of Trustees about off-campus safety next Thursday.
Schmidt called for students to be proactive in order to lower crimes.
“We absolutely must be aware of our surroundings. We must lock our doors. We must utilize security systems. Call the police if you’re concerned. Keep valuable items out of sight,” he said.
“I know you hear them time in and time out, but we must be the leaders who work towards preventing these problems,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt congratulated the student body and the University for the progress made and encouraged them to increase safety.
“Let’s harness the progress that we have made so far and continue to create welcoming environments for students and community members,” he said.
Schmidt closed his speech by encouraging students to get fired up for the football game against USC.
“This is an opportunity for you as student leaders, and us as a student body, to truly enjoy what football means to this community. It’s more than brats, hard hits and push ups,” he said. “It goes back to the ‘We are ND’ chant.
“After the game next Saturday, your voice should be gone. You should be absolutely exhausted, you should smell disgusting,” he said. “You should and will be a proud Notre Dame fan.”