Most of us who attend classes or work at Eastern Michigan University certainly understand what it means when someone says they received a “timely warning.” For those on the outside, it means there was some kind of reported criminal activity on or near campus the night before, and most of us also remember the reasons the university established the policy.
Around campus, we treat Dec. 13, 2006 like Voldemort—we dare not speak its name. But, we hold it in our collective consciousness and understand the profound effect it had on life at EMU and all of the safety precautions the university takes as a result.
Last week, we received one of the famed “timely warnings,” but this one was one of the most serious we’ve seen in the last few years. We read an EMU student was allegedly the victim of a sexual assault off campus.
This was certainly a diversion from the typical petty theft and occasional assault claims we tend to receive. Not to say that we haven’t had serious crimes, but most of the crimes end with the victim short a cell phone and a wallet.
The recent events renewed the discussion we’ve been having since 2007. It made us take stock of safety on and around our campus.
For the most part, President Sue Martin and EMU police chief Greg O’Dell have instituted policies that have made campus a safer place. Increased police patrols, part-time security staff, SEEUS, emergency poles and the campaign for locked doors paired with the awareness of timely warnings have made campus a safer place. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve let the community know our leaders are serious about safety.
Yet, we still have crime. Most urban campuses do, and a large part of our crime is committed by non-students. There is still a problem, but it mostly occurs on the peripheries. At night campus is safe, but the areas nearby are often less so.
It’s hard for the university to do more on that front. They have engaged in a strong education campaign on how to be safe like walking in groups, locking doors and so forth. But beyond that, keeping people safe in their off-campus residences is not the job of EMU.
For those of us on campus, the EMU police and other departments do a fine job of keeping the residences halls and other buildings as crime free as possible. There will always be problems, but the staff takes safety very seriously.
While campus is generally a safe place, the university could increase the police patrols and revisit some of the entry policies involving residence halls. There is always room to improve.
Aside from that, making the community a safer place is a very complicated idea that requires a look at the causes of crime, and it isn’t something the university has much control over.
So as we think about safety in the wake of recent events, we should commend EMU for making our campus a safer place but remember that we could always do more. We can be more vigilant, more careful and more thoughtful about how to live safe lives.
We all ought to have a little skin in this. A safer campus for your neighbor is a safer campus for you. We should all take a little responsibility and look out for each other—it’s the best way not to become “a timely warning to the community.”