EDITORIALS

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November 19, 2010

Security Alert

Issues in Safety and Security undermine the Department’s own efforts

None of us harbors any illusion that the University’s campus is entirely safe and free of crime. Though the crime statistics tell us that the vast majority of students make it through the University without ever encountering any type of violent crime, there will always be some number of incidents like last Thursday’s assaults around the Midway. They can’t be blamed on the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) or on any other department; as long as there is a University of Chicago, attacks like those will remain a source of concern and uncertainty for the University community.

But there are some things about which we should feel certain. When the Department of Safety and Security tells us the SafeRide service provides reliable, point-to-point transportation, usually within 20 minutes, that should mean something. When Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Marlon Lynch tells us SafeRide will resume calling riders when their bus arrives, as he told the Maroon in April, we should be able to take him at his word. When we hear that the Safety Awareness Program will inform the entire campus of serious crimes via security alert e-mails, we should know that the alert system will operate properly. We can’t expect absolute safety, but we should have every confidence that the programs in place to make us safer are working, and working well.

Unfortunately that is not the case today, and hasn’t been for some time. Students continue to complain about SafeRide dispatch not taking their calls, or putting them on hold indefinitely, or refusing to call them when their bus arrives, or simply failing to send a bus to their location. If it worked as promised, the SafeRide program would be a tremendous reassurance to those who feel uncomfortable walking around campus. Instead, dissatisfaction with the service is such that a recent Facebook petition protesting SafeRide problems has attracted almost 500 participants.

Issues have also cropped up with the safety alert system. When Lynch wrote early last Friday to inform campus about the Midway attacks, a large portion of the e-mails were diverted by Gmail’s spam filter and never received. The problem was not detected, and when Lynch and Vice President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews wrote a follow-up later that day, their e-mail was more confusing than comforting to those who had never seen the initial alert.

Three years ago today, graduate student Amadou Cisse (Ph.D. ’07) was murdered at East 61st Street and South Ellis Avenue, the corner where South Campus Residence Hall now stands. The shock from that terrible loss touched off a renewed effort to address safety concerns in Hyde Park, an effort that aimed to close many of the gaps that existed in campus security and transportation.

Three years later, the issues with SafeRide should not still be lingering. Three years later, we should have a security alert system that works without fail. Three years later, there are no more excuses for these types of problems to be so widespread. Until we can say with assurance that the Department of Safety and Security is doing its best to protect us, the doubts about our safety will continue to overshadow whatever certainty that department and its programs mean to bring us.

—The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and Viewpoints Editors.

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