Schapiro, administrators address campus safety during state of University talk
April 19, 2017
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University President Morton Schapiro said campus safety is Northwestern’s “first priority” during a state of the University talk Tuesday.
“Conversations with the President,” which is co-sponsored by the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, Faculty Senate and the Office of the President, was held at the McCormick Foundation Center Forum. Schapiro, who was joined by Provost Dan Linzer, vice president for student affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin, Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah and Phil Harris, vice president and general counsel, addressed questions about the future of NU.
One of the main issues discussed during the event was student safety following the death of first-year student Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu in a biking accident on Sheridan Road during Fall Quarter. Chinniah said administrators are currently in the process of implementing changes to make Sheridan Road safer, and that safety is the University’s top priority.
Some of the new policies include implementing a program that provides free helmets and lights upon bike registration and moving University-related traffic to early in the morning or late in the day, Chinniah said. In November, City Council voted to reduce the speed limit on Sheridan Road from 30 mph to 25 mph, and current construction will add bike lanes on the thoroughfare.
Chinniah said faculty and staff should drive carefully on Sheridan Road, especially during high traffic hours.
“This is an issue which we all need to work together on,” Chinniah said. “As you come to campus and leave campus, please be mindful of those crossing Sheridan Road.”
Continuing the discussion of campus safety, administrators also spoke about the Title IX process and challenges they encountered during the investigation of reports of multiple alleged sexual assaults and druggings at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house and another, unnamed fraternity earlier this year. On March 30, the University announced in an email to students that there would be no disciplinary action taken against SAE or the other fraternity. Chinniah said Tuesday there was difficulty finding survivors who would come forward and participate in the investigation.
Schapiro said a variety of people reacted angrily to the investigation and its outcome –– including members of SAE and their parents as well as supporters of survivors, among others. However, Schapiro said the University did everything it could to follow proper procedures and be as fair as possible.
“I can’t tell you how seriously we take it,” he said. “People who are critical of me or somebody else around here on the stage or elsewhere, I mean they should realize that it’s not because we don’t care about keeping this place safe and trying to do the right thing.”
In addition to addressing student safety, administrators spoke about national issues, specifically the University’s response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration, which temporarily bar citizens of Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia from entering the U.S.
Harris said many students and scholars will potentially be impacted by the two executive orders, though they will affect the entire community because NU is a “global university.” He said the University would do whatever it takes to protect its students while still complying with federal law.
“There are a lot of smart people in this world who aren’t born in the United States, and we’ll recruit those people aggressively,” he said.
Erin Libby, manager of the Qatar Support Office and member of NUSAC, said events like these are important because of the connection they establish between Schapiro and NU staff members, who are left out of the community dialogue at times.
“I do think it’s important for the faculty and the students but also the staff to feel like they have a voice and let that voice be heard to the highest level,” she said.