Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

42° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Light ?ght shows town animosity (Forum)

It seemed at first to be a leap forward in town-gown relations. A series of emergency blue lights near El stops and in other close-to-campus areas would be paid for by Northwestern, maintained by Evanston and used by anyone in need of police assistance.

Now, the Evanston City Council has decided to rethink its decision after hearing complaints from residents. That would be fine if the complaints dealt with legitimate concerns about the blue lights – and there are a few – instead of the selfish, aesthetic grounds that were voiced. What promised to be a shining example of Evanston-NU cooperation and understanding has instead become the ugliest display of resident egocentrism in recent memory.

We’ve already voiced the opinion that the blue lights will benefit the community, students and residents alike. They would quiet parental concerns about off-campus safety, deter crime and, we hoped, portend future goodwill between the city and the campus.

It’s true that spending $82,000 to build a few blue lights is a lot of money, and there have been many, many false alarms from the current blue lights. But we find it hard to believe anyone will voice those arguments when the blue lights save a life or avert a rape.

One complaint voiced by several residents was that the phones may lower property values by causing potential buyers to question the safety of the neighborhoods. As one concerned NU mother pointed out in a recent letter to the editor, (“Blue lights unintrusive, needed for student safety,” Wednesday) there have been issues with crime around Evanston in recent months. Aldermen, too, urged residents not to ignore local crime issues. Property values will fall much more quickly due to a violent crime than because of a simple phone marked “emergency.”

Locals said that as permanent residents, their views on safety should trump students’. “We walk the same streets NU students do,” NU-City Committee and Northwestern Neighbors member David Schoenfeld told The Daily. “We walked them before they came. We will walk them after they leave.”

Besides their bald disregard for students’ safety, Schoenfeld and those who agree with him ignore their own. Anyone can use blue lights, and anyone who’s read the police blotter lately knows it’s not just students who are victims of violent crime in Evanston. Here’s another way of putting it, David: Crime is a problem now, and whether you succeed in abetting it or not, it will remain long after you die.

That said, the almost universal complaint among residents was they were never informed of the plan. Because of this, they are stopping the process.

That’s an equally troubling attitude. It belies the almost paranoid prism through which residents scrutinize any NU-Evanston cooperation. It obstructs the public process and wastes valuable government time.

But more than anything else, it gives students all the more reason to regard their neighbors with scorn. If residents won’t throw themselves a bone on safety, why should students work with them on anything else?

We hope students don’t adopt their neighbors’ negative, obstructionist tactics or their us versus them mentality. But we may have to forgive them for doing so if the inflammatory rhetoric and ill-advised maneuvers persist.

It’s sad but possibly true that the only way NU can get things done around town is to do them without first consulting Evanstonians.

The blue light proposal, which is mutually beneficial for students and residents, may not fully go through because of a turf war between those affiliated with the university and those who are not.

Ultimately, though, the question should be what makes the neighborhoods safer for everyone, not who controls the neighborhoods themselves.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Light ?ght shows town animosity (Forum)