A reasonable expectation of safety within a university-owned public dorm is as much a fundamental right as any other. It is easy to feel unsafe when important information concerning the space you live in is withheld, only released after an incident is settled.
I’ve lived in Witte Residence Hall, a southeast public dorm at University of Wisconsin, since August of last year, along with more than 1,000 other students. I remember being told I must carry my Wiscard and room key with me at all times to gain access to the building and to use the elevator. I initially understood these were simple security precautions. As time went on, I began to catch on to the fact these rules only functioned as some sort of placebo, giving off the impression residents were somehow safer than they were.
I know the lock on my door will ultimately be the device that ensures safety, but many other residents have reason to feel unsafe — myself included.
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Monday, at around 10 p.m, I received an email on my school-issued email account titled “Witte Hall Safety and Security Information.” The beginning of the email read:
“Dear Witte Resident,
You may already be aware of the incident that took place early Sunday morning in Witte Hall. A nonstudent gained entry into the building by following Witte Hall residents through multiple locked doors. The individual was identified and arrested.”
No, I did not know what took place in my dorm that morning. I still do not know what happened based off of this extremely vague email. The opening sentence is alarming for an email with a title pertaining to my immediate safety, wouldn’t you agree? What exactly do they mean by a “nonstudent?” Was this person armed? Was this person a danger to themselves or others? I demand answers. If the police were involved, I should deserve to know the moment this happened or shortly after, rather than more than 24 hours later.
I asked a bunch of my friends and peers about what may have happened, and I gathered some information. But it might be completely incorrect since no person of great authority decided to inform me or others about said “incidents.”
Through rumors I’ve heard, I learned a man, possibly on drugs, wandered through the entrances of Witte and entered a student’s room without the student’s knowledge or consent. This sounds pretty scary to me, yet somehow the university believes if they handle the situation, they don’t have to keep students in the loop.
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I received two text alerts with corresponding emails about thunderstorms recently, and though I appreciated the warnings, weather is easily observable. Thunder is very loud. I have a window. There’s an app for that.
What is not easily observable is whether or not one of the hundreds of people to pass through my dorm everyday is a stranger, dangerous or suspicious.
I would appreciate it more if someone sent me text alerts whenever a trespasser was arrested in my building. That would be nice. I’m not exactly sure what new measures this university must implement to make this campus safer, but I am sure greater progress would be achievable if students were kept in the know.
Jill Kazlow ([email protected]) is a freshman intending to major in journalism.