Council inacticity threatens safety of students, city (Citywatch)

Jesse Abrams-Morely

We’re mad as hell. Or at least we should be.

In recent weeks Northwestern students have been the victims of beatings, robberies and purse snatchings on the mean streets of Evanston. In response administrators have hired extra security guards, and University Police has beefed up its patrols in the areas of the attacks.

City officials, other than the police, have done exactly what they usually do when it comes to matters affecting NU students — nothing.

Students should be furious at the utter inactivity and seeming lack of caring on the part of most of the city’s politicians. And it’s not just that they aren’t helping — they’re literally kicking us while we’re down.

At Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting, about 10 residents spoke out against students’ off-campus behavior. Aldermen complained about students’ behavior as well, with Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) — who is not even on the committee — being the most vocal critic. “You could ride down the street (early in the morning) and see three or four Northwestern students urinating on the parkway,” Kent said.

There was very little discussion, on the other hand, of the rash of recent violent crimes that have taken place near campus.

UP Chief Bruce Lewis and other university officials broached the subject in their speeches to the aldermen, and Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th), who represents part of NU’s campus, asked if there was anything aldermen could do to help.

But Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), who represents most of campus, would only say the incidents were an “extremely disappointing thing.”

Besides being a candidate for understatement of the year, Newman’s comment will do little to quell the justifiable fear students feel when they walk the streets of his ward and the rest of the city at night.

Up to this point most of students’ efforts to better their security situation has focused on lobbying administrators. And when incidents happen by the rocks on Lake Michigan, that’s not a bad strategy.

But when the beatings are taking place at the corner of Sherman Avenue and Noyes Street, as one did last month, the place to go is not the Rebecca Crown Center — it’s the Evanston Civic Center, this town’s version of city hall.

Earlier Monday the city’s Rules Committee recommended that Evanston City Council adopt a redistricting map that keeps students in only two wards, rather than three. There are several reasons why the three-ward-campus proposals failed, but chief among them is the constant involvement of Associated Student Government officials, who showed up at several meetings over the last five months, pressuring City Council to consider their concerns.

Women’s Coalition and other campus groups concerned with safety could learn from ASG’s example. The aldermen might be ineffective sometimes, but they aren’t stupid or blind. A crowd of students at Monday’s council meeting could sway aldermen to support increased lighting and policing, or maybe a city shuttle that would take anyone — both residents and students — as far south as Lake Street.

These are only suggestions, and, of course, no plan can prevent all crime. But no matter what the details are, one thing is clear: Students have to make their voices heard, before someone else is left bruised and battered, face down in the street.

City Editor Jesse Abrams-Morley is a Medill junior.

He can be reached at [email protected]