By Mikayla Silcox and Emma Reilly
Elm Staff Writer and Outgoing Editor-in-Chief
Concerns regarding on and off-campus safety recently resurfaced after four bikes were reported stolen and two students witnessed an incident at the local 7-11 on April 1.
In an effort to address these worries, the Student Government Association invited the Director of Public Safety Pam Hoffmann to speak with the Senate about concerns raised by students regarding safety on campus on Tuesday, April 10.
Hoffmann says that Public Safety is dedicated to students’ safety.
“Having a campus that students, staff, and faculty feel safe on is paramount to allowing the campus educational experience be successful,” Hoffmann said.
Public Safety’s goals may align with students’ when it comes to safety, but in practice this does not ring true.
Freshman Public Safety Liaison Kyaran Balin-Brooks is working alongside Hoffmann. Balin-Brooks serves as an advocate for student perspectives surrounding safety.
This semester, Senators have suggested fixing street lights and sending more WAC Alerts during emergencies.
On Tuesday, Hoffman announced that Public Safety’s latest endeavor involves launching an app to supplement the existing blue light system. According to Balin-Brooks, the app will allow students to quickly send alerts to Public Safety.
“It has a lot of useful features that will allow students to feel a lot safer and allow Public Safety to reach students a lot more efficiently about incidents on campus,” Balin-Brooks said.
Students have reported issues with the blue light system, so Hoffmann is also looking to implement a numbering system to easily address broken lights.
WC has an obligation to keep its safety features up-to-date. The addition of the blue light app is promising, but comes too late. Some feel that the College has broken the promise it makes to incoming students.
“When I was looking at WC four years ago as a prospective student, the blue light system was a big selling point for me and my family, yet in those four years they have never actually worked,” senior Emma Radinsky said.
Even though the campus is making strides to fix this system, it is concerning that it went unresolved for so long.
This issue raises concerns about the reality of student saftey at WC.
While it is promising that a public safety liason position exists and that problems with the blue light system are being addressed, many student concerns still persist.
One pressing issue that remains unresolved is Public Safety’s handling of emergencies.
According to freshman Lillian Elgayar, she and another WC student were at 7-11 when they observed men loitering around the store in ski masks.This led Elgayar to believe that she was in danger, she said.
According to Elgayar, Public Safety was not sent to escort the students back to campus until the 7-11 cashier spoke to the dispatcher and affirmed the severity of the situation.
“A week later I saw [Hoffman’s] quotes in The Elm and it made me feel even more unsafe because she didn’t understand what went wrong,” Elgayar said.
“In the paper she had all these quotes saying, ‘our officers did not hesitate to go.’ Yes, you did. It took 15 minutes for your officers to come and get us 0.2 miles away from campus.”
Hesitancy is a critical issue that increased technology will not solve. Instead, dispatchers and officers alike should undergo more rigorous training. Students who say they feel scared or that they are in danger should be offered assistance immediately, regardless of context. Incidents can be further invesitigated once someone is on the scene.
This lack of reaction to students’ concerns is not a recent development.
Last semester, freshman Sydney Walker called Public Safety after being worried about a woman sitting outside the crosswalk near her dorm, asking people to use their phones.
“I called Public Safety because I was worried she would try and follow us. They said they would get on it, but they didn’t call me back until like 45 minutes later,” Walker said.
Whether calls seem imminent or not, it is the responsibility of dispatchers to inquire about a call immediately.
Students should not feel unsupported and alone with Public Safety less than a mile away. Every call should be treated with importance.
Public Safety is a physically close resource and there is no reason that students should have to worry about how long it will take for trained officers to respond to their calls due to a lack of urgency or disbelief over the importance of calls.
“I would like what the officers are being taught to be shared publicly. We can work together to maybe find a new training or new way of thinking to help improve safety on campus,” Elgayar said.
Public Safety is responding to concerns about safety measures, but not in the ways that would be the most effective for or beneficial to students.