After the University of Wisconsin Police Department stationed officers at the corner University and Charter to discourage jaywalking, some students raised concerns about the campus’ approach to curb the crossings.
In order to deter students from jaywalking or illegally crossing the intersection at University and Charter, UWPD posted officers out on the corner, the department announced in a tweet Tuesday morning. The tweet said officers would first give warnings but may also fine students.
Individuals who regularly commute through the intersection have voiced frustration at the announcement on social media, with the student group the BIPOC Coalition expressing their objections on Twitter.
“To clarify: UWPD is threatening to cite students who are crossing in the only area they can due to construction,” the BIPOC Coalition wrote in a tweet. “This could be avoided if the UW would redirect sidewalk traffic to ensure students don’t go this route but why do that when you can police black & brown students!”
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Others debated the efficacy of stopping the dangerous crossings with police presence, fines or warnings.
Associated Students of Madison Representative Jack Phillips questioned the department about what efforts have been made to work with the city to manage traffic flows and protect pedestrians.
“The traffic flow is inefficient, students need to get across campus in 15 minutes, both of these can be addressed at a systems level,” Phillips said in a tweet. “You’ve identified an engineering problem and want to punish people for interacting with the system as it was designed?”
Police’s role on campus has been a topic of debate among the student body over the past few years, according to the Associated Students of Madison. The UW BIPOC Coalition and ASM have spoken out about their wishes for a decreased police presence on campus, saying students from vulnerable populations have historically been harmed by campus police and continue to feel unsafe.
In an email to The Badger Herald, UWPD Specialty Services Lieutenant Ryan Jesberger said the new enforcement comes in direct response to complaints the police department has received since classes started and pedestrian traffic increased.
“We have received multiple complaints of pedestrians nearly being struck by vehicles while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, against traffic, and not following the crosswalk lights,” Jesberger said. “With our priority of safety in mind, the decision was made to increase our presence, education, and enforcement efforts.”
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Illegally entering the street is dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians, but some students see it as the only option due to construction on the corner of University Avenue and Charter Street that currently blocks students from using a portion of sidewalk.
UW Junior Catherine Gross said students who would normally use that part of the sidewalk are left with the options of backtracking to the nearest crosswalk, going through Chamberlain Hall or jaywalking around the construction sites.
“As somebody who has a car on campus, I understand [the UWPD enforcing jaywalking],” Gross said. “But at the same time, holy crap is that the most obnoxious spot ever to put it because you can’t cross here, so you have to wait. I get both sides, but I’d rather just be able to jaywalk a little bit.”