Student Alliance persists as campus safety issues linger

Jennifer Leopoldt

When two students were attacked off campus last May, Rachel Lopez responded with the creation of the Northwestern Safety Alliance, an organization of student groups committed to improving safety.

Now, following a string of armed robberies near campus, Safety Alliance again is pooling its resources to purchase defense whistles for students and cooperate with Evanston residents to lobby for safer, brighter streets.

At a meeting Thursday night Lopez, Associated Student Government president, explained that Safety Alliance allows ASG members and student group leaders to work together on safety initiatives.

“We’re not working for the same thing independently, we’re working collectively,” said Lopez, a Weinberg senior.

At its inception, Safety Alliance had six priorities, including re-evaluating campus lighting, creating an off-campus shuttle, improving the Escort Service and promoting self-defense classes.

The group soon gained ASG recognition and support from Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis to begin working on the off-campus shuttle and on distributing “rape whistles” to students.

Safety Alliance will concentrate on many of the same issues this year, Lopez said. One of the group’s priorities is to bring more lighting to off-campus locations.

But according to Mike Wong, Safety Alliance member and ASG student services vice president, city politics could make putting lights in Evanston difficult.

“That’s probably where it’s needed the most but where it will be hardest to accomplish,” said Wong, a Weinberg junior.

Still, the recent robberies have affected not only NU students but also Evanston residents, said Weinberg senior Katy Hitchins, who suggested taking a petition door-to-door asking residents to support the purchase of more street lights.

“It’s a good way to show that (safety) is a common thing to work on,” said Hitchins, director of corporate relations for A&O Productions.

Another priority for Safety Alliance is letting students know about the changes made to the shuttle system. This year, partly because of the group’s lobbying, the shuttle system has split the purple route into two parts served by north and south buses, Lopez said.

Last year the shuttle system often was unreliable and inconvenient for students, said Women’s Coalition president Nell Haynes.

“It was never where it was supposed to be,” said Haynes, a Communication senior.

Women’s Co has been an active participant in campus safety through Safety Alliance as well as independently. Last October, Women’s Co members drafted a petition to improve safety after an NU graduate student was attacked on the Lakefill. The petition called for increased annual funding for lighting and longer hours for the shuttle and Escort Service.

Safety Alliance members still are discussing whether or not to lobby for longer shuttle hours, especially during the winter. But right now the group is concerned about the lack of publicity regarding changes to shuttle routes, Fong said.

“I think at present 10 percent of students know how this works,” he said.

The group also is working with ASG and other organizations to purchase whistles for students, an idea that has been pushed by Jonathan Marino, a Weinberg freshman and senator for Shepard Residential College. Banis has said he will put some money toward the project if ASG, Women’s Co and other groups work to raise the rest of the money.