Incident moves safety lobbying off-campus

Becky Bowman

Members of the Northwestern community reacted with concern Wednesday to news that a female student had been sexually assaulted off campus in the early hours of the morning, calling for administrators and Evanston officials to bolster safety west of Sheridan Road.

“I think this is pushing us to look at areas … that are in close proximity to campus, that students frequent,” said Tiffany Berry, Associated Student Government student services vice president.

Berry said she plans to work with ASG External Relations Chairman Ben Cherry to explore effective ways to lobby Evanston officials for increased lighting and safety measures.

Though Berry said she does not think lighting was a large part of the incident, she said the area where the incident occurred can be rather dark at night. Evanston residents often are reluctant to support increased lighting measures, saying they want to preserve the historic qualities of the town, she said.

“It’s terrifying and it’s infuriating,” said Laura Millendorf, former director of Women’s Coalition. “This is why the Escort Service is there, why cabs are there, why every woman on this campus should be taking a self-defense course.”

Millendorf also said she didn’t think lighting played a large role in fostering the incident, which occurred off campus but close to the graduate housing in Engelhart Hall.

“The lighting isn’t great there, but what’s really important is that no one walks there at night,” she said. “I’ve been there with friends and it’s even a bit frightening.”

Administrators as well as Evanston officials should be concerned about the incident, Millendorf said, because Evanston streets are used heavily by NU students.

“That’s where students live,” she said. “(That time of night) is when people are walking back from the library, walking back from bars.”

The incident raises questions of whether Evanston is really safe, Millendorf said. She said she often feels more safe walking in a city, with more light and more people on the streets later at night.

“Just because we’re in some suburban area with nice houses, there’s this myth that you can walk alone at night and leave your doors unlocked,” she said.

University Police officers would distributed fliers about the incident around campus and reminded students to avoid walking home alone at night. The university also responded to the incident by placing a community crime alert on the HereAndNow Web site Wednesday morning.

“Any time there’s a matter of danger to our students, to our faculty, to any member of the community, it’s a clear reason for concern,” said Alan Cubbage, NU vice president for university relations.