Where are the Emergency Call Boxes?
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 16, 2018
When I first visited Notre Dame as a prospective student, I was blinded by the Dome’s golden gleam. I strongly believed that Notre Dame was the perfect university. Nevertheless, studying here for a year has revealed many concealed truths about the administration that runs the campus. Though I proudly study at an institution with some of the world’s most renowned faculty, a supportive student environment and a beautiful campus, Our Lady’s University has severe flaws, one of the greatest being the security and well-being of the students.
I never really gave much thought about campus safety until my recent visit to Northwestern University, situated just a couple of hours away. I took a tour around their campus and was puzzled by the numerous Emergency Blue Light Call Boxes fixed in every nook and cranny of the campus. I asked the tour guide about their purpose and how to use them, to which he replied that they are mostly used by women who feel in danger of being sexually assaulted. At that precise moment, I asked myself, “Is sexual assault also an issue at Notre Dame? If so, how does the administration prevent sexual assault on campus?” When I got back to campus, I took a stroll to locate the emergency phones or blue lights in case I ever found myself in a similarly dangerous situation. To my surprise, most of them were on the outskirts of campus. This alerted me to the fact that the center of campus is a place of vulnerability that can be exploited and lead to more assaults. It was in this moment that I realized Notre Dame’s system for sexual assault prevention is severely flawed.
I decided to continue my research on the subject, confident there was more information about the location and usage of the Emergency Call boxes on the Notre Dame website. It turned out that looking for information on the phones was an even bigger hassle than locating them on campus. After clicking on four different tabs of the Office of Campus Safety website, I finally found a box titled “Emergency Call Boxes.” I pressed the cursor one last time and was directed to a blank page with a single sentence at the top that read, “Emergency Call Boxes are located all around the campus. Click here for a map.” This came as a shock, and I thought I must have missed most of the call boxes on my stroll around campus. Subsequently, I opened the map to locate the phones and count the available phone boxes in case of an emergency. As I opened the map, an abundance of blue dots (each symbolizing a call box) appeared on the outskirts of campus; but, much to my dismay, the center of campus (around God quad, North quad, South quad and Mod quad) was blank.
The second question I asked myself was: “If I am lucky enough to find one of the call boxes in an emergency, how do I even use it?” I continued my search through the NDSP site and found no information. The lack of instruction of the blue light system on campus reflects poorly on the Office of Campus Safety and their efforts to protect students from potentially dangerous situations such as sexual assault.
Some might argue that, unlike Notre Dame, Northwestern’s campus in Chicago needs to have the Emergency Blue Light system because of their location in the big city. Nevertheless, it is important to note that most of the incidents related to sexual assault are caused by students within the campus. This information was confirmed by the Sexual Conduct and Climate survey conducted by the University. Moreover, Notre Dame is part of the South Bend community and its students are also exposed to the city’s criminal activity.
The staggering number of sexual assault and harassment cases on campus prove that Notre Dame is no exception to the rape culture seen on most college campuses across the nation. The administration of Notre Dame, however, ignores this danger posed to students on campus. According to the Sexual Conduct and Climate survey at Notre Dame, three percent of Notre Dame students have been forced into non-consensual intercourse and twelve percent of Notre Dame students have been victims of some type of non-consensual sexual contact. The negligence from the NDSP in not placing emergency phones and safety lights in strategic locations highlights the oblivious and negligent attitude of the University towards the dangers on campus.
The description of the Emergency Call Boxes given by the NDSP in the newsletter released on April deeply disturbs me. They stated, “you will not find them [call boxes] towards the center of campus because if someone needs emergency help, ideally they should be able to get to a building or get the attention of someone to assist them.” In an ideal world, sexual violence does not exist on Notre Dame’s, or any other college’s campus. In an ideal world, I could find an open building at three in the morning and call for help if ever in danger. In an ideal world, someone would see me running for help when campus is empty and everybody is asleep. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and NDSP needs to respond to the reality of our world not the ideal that we strive for.
Students have the right to feel safe on their campus; they should be able to walk around campus knowing the steps they can take if they are ever in danger. For this reason, I call upon the administration to place Emergency Call Boxes as a top priority for sexual assault prevention.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.