Going away to college for the first time raises a plethora of emotions in both students and their parents. Students are anxious to get away from home and see what life is like living on their own. Parents can’t help but give lectures on what their child should or shouldn’t do, and usually touch on the basics, like studying hard while having fun and not forgetting to call.
One thing remains consistent from family to family – the pre-college lectures that parents give hold a double standard, as female students and male students are given starkly different advice.
When guys go away to college, their fathers or male figures in their lives stress that these four years will be “the best four years ever,” remind them to have safe sex and sometimes even hand them a box of condoms “just in case.” When females hit the road the advice they hear is drastically different. Parents aren’t so concerned about their daughters having fun and living it up, but instead nag and nag about never walking home alone at night, locking the door, never putting their drink down at a party and so forth.
When I came to the University of Wisconsin, I was at ease, knowing that because of SAFE Nighttime Services, I never had to worry much about how I was going to get home from late nights at The Badger Herald or a night out with friends.
So, when I heard this summer that after a series of flip flops and uncertainties that UW was cutting all funding to SAFECab, I was surprised, anxious and pretty pissed off.
Sure, there’s still SAFEwalk. I’ve used their services a number of times in my few years on campus - the walkers are great and it’s generally a good service to have. However, this service has its flaws – for instance, SAFEwalk service ends at a much earlier time each night than SAFECab did. Will the walking service add on a few extra hours each night to make sure students still have a safe way to get home? They ought to. I know Heralders can’t possibly be the only students on campus who work into the early hours of the morning, and who need to work those hours to afford the classes they take during the day.
As I wrote this, I, along with the rest of the UW student body, received an email from Dean of Students Lori Berquam with the subject line “Staying safe this semester.” Berquam warned students that “there have been several recent violent incidents downtown, particularly late at night in the University Avenue corridor.”
When I heard about the assaults, armed robberies and so forth plaguing areas of Madison that are heavily populated with students, I felt vulnerable coming back to school, especially as a woman. Stereotype or not, statistics show women are much more likely to be victims of a violent crime, particularly on a college campus. Armed with all of this information, I ask the UW what exactly it plans to do to keep its students safe this academic year.
The university’s decision to cut SAFECab this summer is harmful and dangerous. Having cut SAFECab funding, the UW needs to provide a solution for the student who finds him or herself stranded late at night without enough money to pay for a cab home. Reinstating SAFECab would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Any college campus should provide its students with the ability to feel and be safe. Berquam’s advice to students to “always walk with a group of friends, especially at night…make use of SAFE Nighttime Services [or] use your ‘radar’ or common sense as your first defense” is fine and good, but does not show a proactive stance on behalf of the university when it comes to students’ safety. If these violent crimes near campus continue, using radar or common sense unfortunately will not always be enough. It’s time for the UW to step forward and allow its students to feel safe on and around campus, before just one student’s radar fails to go off.
Pam Selman ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and journalism.