As a freshman, one of the first things I was told was “Don’t walk Rapeshore alone at night.” As unflattering as that nickname is, “Rapeshore” doesn’t only describe Lakeshore Path anymore.
Women have been sexually assaulted all across campus. In many of the articles reflecting on them, sources such as police officers and Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, have stated lack of lighting is a factor in referring to the University Avenue assault. When a solution as simple as lighting may help to provide a safer campus to the student body, why has nothing been done?
According to the 2011-12 UW Campus Safety Guide, there are more than 100 blue emergency phone lights throughout dangerous parts of campus. Offhand, I can only recall two, both located along Lakeshore Path. While this is nowhere near enough lights on the otherwise unlit path, my question is: Where are the rest? Where was the blue light in the Hawthorne Court alleyway, a blatantly sketchy part of the campus area, where a young woman was recently assaulted? There are many places where walking alone at night can be rendered unsafe. A college campus should not be one of them.
To some extent, the university has acknowledged the danger present on our campus after nightfall. Programs such as SAFEwalk, SAFEride and SAFEbus exist to offer accompaniment to individuals in the form of a free walk home, six free cab rides per semester as well as a free bus system. While a great concept, the programs have their flaws. Many times, those who need assistance are outside of SAFEwalk’s boundaries or aren’t in compliance with other restrictions. Other times, students don’t want to wait the usual 30 or more minutes before a SAFEcab or SAFEwalk arrives and opt to walk home instead. And why shouldn’t walking be an option? It’s unfair for students to feel too unsafe to walk home on our college campus. With more lights present, we wouldn’t.
On a personal note, during welcome week this past summer, a friend and I were stopped by the police while walking home around midnight. We were reprimanded for walking alone and asked if we were aware of the sexual assaults taking place across campus and how unsafe it is for two young women to walk home alone unaccompanied. During a follow-up meeting with an assistant student dean, information pertaining to how unsafe our campus is was firmly drilled into my mind. The dean held up a stack of yellow folders and explained those were all the unresolved sexual assault cases on campus, and that those files only pertained to when he was on duty. He was one of five assistant student deans. My interaction with the police occurred at the intersection of Park Street and Dayton Street, a location where an incident had occurred not long before I decided to walk home.
The heightened number of sexual assaults calls for immediate police action. However, a very obvious first step is the addition of lights and emergency telephones across campus. Blue light emergency phones should be placed across campus, not only in areas deemed “dangerous” or “unsafe.” I would never have imagined an area as highly populated as University Avenue would have been the location for a sexual assault, so reading about a woman having been pulled off the street and assaulted in Hawthorne Court hit close to home. I have frequently walked University Avenue at night, and maybe it’s just luck that I myself haven’t been assaulted. None of the student body should feel unsafe while walking at night in a city that we’ve all come to know as home.
Christin Wiegand (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sophomore with an undeclared major.