Alliance receives backing on safety

Elaine Helm

The Northwestern Safety Alliance moved a step closer Friday to achieving several of its goals for improving safety on and off campus.

In a meeting with key administrators including William Banis, NU’s vice president for student affairs, student leaders received support for implementing an exclusively off-campus shuttle, providing “rape whistles” to students at no or reduced cost and offering more frequent Rape Aggression Defense classes for students.

A recent rash of off-campus assaults and safety concerns prompted Associated Student Government President Rachel Lopez to form the alliance with nearly 50 other student leaders two weeks ago. About 30 students and administrators attended Friday’s meeting at Norris University Center.

Most of the discussion focused around ideas for improving NU shuttles and the Escort Service. William Salerno, next year’s Escort Service student coordinator, urged university officials to repair the shuttle service’s image among students.

“Whether or not the shuttle service is efficient, student perception is that it’s inefficient and (students) don’t want to wait,” said Salerno, a Weinberg junior.

Salerno said the Escort Service is over-extended with 25 workers providing about 100 rides each night in three cars that frequently break down. But he said a fourth car, higher wages and more workers would not address abuses of the service.

Gregg Kindle, director of Residential Life, said the escort cars will reach the end of their leases shortly and will be replaced by Fall Quarter.

Debra Garfi, manager of NU support services, said she has tentatively mapped out a new off-campus shuttle route based on a list of the Escort Service’s 50 most popular pick-up and drop-off sites.

Garfi also said the shuttle service, which served more than 50,000 students on NU’s Chicago and Evanston campuses last year, was altered this year to reach more off-campus locations. NU extended the white route on the Evanston Campus to reach Century Theatres and student residences on Ridge Avenue.

Arguing that students need to take initiative in keeping themselves safe, Laura Millendorf, co-director of Women’s Coalition, lobbied Banis and University Police Chief Saul Chafin for more defense classes and personal safety whistles or pepper spray.

Though Banis and others expressed support for Millendorf’s other ideas, Chafin said he would not advocate the use of mace or pepper spray because it could malfunction.

“I don’t want to be in a position where my department supports something and it doesn’t work,” he said.

Chafin also nixed Millendorf’s idea for student patrols of areas where attacks have taken place in past weeks.

“Let us deal with the police stuff,” he said. “Go to the administration and get me some more police officers to put on the streets. Don’t put students out there where they won’t be safe.”

UP Assistant Chief Daniel McAleer said the police force numbers have remained roughly the same for 15 to 20 years, even though officers have been asked to take on more responsibilities, such as off-campus patrols, traffic stops, defense classes and mutual aid with Evanston Police Department.

A concerned student and Escort Service worker, Dene Brown, said safety measures unrelated to transportation are important, but students should be able to rely on the shuttles and Escort Service.

“You can’t force those students who don’t (use shuttles or Escort Service) to do it,” said Brown, a Speech senior. “But there are other options than being in any area at night alone. There shouldn’t be a question about students being able to use these services conveniently.”