April 16, 2013

Is student safety still a top priority for DPS?

By Anna Meany–

Mom has always told me that if I ever work in customer service, to be polite and courteous no matter what.
Wise words to live by, yes?

Not according to the Department of Public Safety.

Every future student attends some kind of Orientation program before beginning class. When I attended in summer 2010, everyone went to the same informational assembly about Campus Safety, where a University Police Officer reassured us that the safety and security of students was their biggest concern and insisted that we all save that number.

The contact for DPS is still in my phone.

Blue Light Special is a mandatory safety tour for all incoming freshman (residents and commuters) that takes place within a few days of students returning to campus. On this tour, First Year Guides explain the security on campus, like the Emergency Blue Light alarms and DPS. In 2012’s Welcome Week event brochure (found by searching U of L’s website), it reads “Get key important phone numbers.” Want to guess which number they ask ALL students to save?

The University Police website reads “We are able to escort anyone on campus up to four blocks off campus.” Verbatim the webpage, this includes “within the campus, to University Park Apartments, to the Province Apartments.”

Easily found on the Housing website is a list of DPS services and tips to students. These are: ‘Get an Escort Across Campus’, ‘Report an Act of Intolerance, Racism and Homophobia’, ‘Report A Sexual Assault’, ‘Reporting Crimes in General’, and ‘Silent Witness Program’.

‘Get an Escort Across Campus’ is described as the following: “The Department of Public Safety (DPS) provides a dusk to dawn escort service for students based on safety/security concerns. Escorts will ensure students are not walking across campus alone. Call 852-6111 to arrange this service.”

Right.

So make that at least four instances that I’ve been (supposedly) guaranteed security from the University I pay thousands to each year.

And when I called for a ride back from campus to the Province Apartments (advertised as being within the limits of escort rides) after the national championship game, the big man in charge that night hung up on me after sarcastically informing me of the riot.

I should note that I had every intention of walking home despite the glass-filled streets and pepper spray that lingered in the air, but word was spreading about an attempted sexual assault on campus amongst the ruckus. Can you blame me for turning to the one service I had been repeatedly told would always help?

I know this might seem a little far-fetched, but if the Supervisor of DPS is willing to hang up on students when they need a ride home, how willing will he be to help us when I’m in danger of sexual assault, robbery or harassment?

Chances are you know someone who’s been let down by DPS, too. Late one night, a female coworker of mine needed a ride home from the library to the Province – but that wasn’t convenient for DPS, who told her they were understaffed and she would need to make other plans.

Another one of my friends said that he and three others were at Community Park and requested a ride to the Parking Garage on Floyd Street. The driver, who admitted to having no other escorts at that time, completely refused and told my friend he’d have to find someone else.

Doesn’t part of our tuition go towards the salaries of DPS employees? Not that money is the issue here. Our safety is the issue. U of L was featured as one of the Top Ten Most Dangerous Campuses last year and as a female, I feel especially vulnerable. The disrespect and complete lack of regard for my safety is really unsettling. How much will it take for DPS to realize their active and constant presence on campus is absolutely necessary?

Maybe changing the information given during Orientation, Blue Light Special Tours, and both the University Police and Housing websites should promote this: “DPS: safety when convenient.”

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Photo courtesy of louisville.edu

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