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Safety awareness forum turns contentious

Safety awareness forum turns contentious

Emily Timmerman

Editor in Chief

The College of Wooster’s Campus Council held an open forum Tuesday, Oct. 25 in Lowry Lobby, open to students, faculty, staff and administration.  Titled as a “Safety Awareness Forum,” discussion was initiated by Kevin Carpenter ’12, chair of campus council, and Hannah Haas ’12, president of SGA.  Students were invited to initiate the dialogue by “sharing personal experiences and feelings about safety on campus.”

The subsequent discussion quickly turned to stories of harassment ranging from specific personal experiences to more general accounts.  Issues of harassment directed at students both by other students on campus, as well as by Wooster community members were discussed. Dean of Students Kurt Holmes, Associate Director of Security and Protective Services Joe Kirk and Director of Security and Protective Services Steve Glick were all addressed individually and asked to speak on the prevalent issues of safety and harassment on campus, as well as challenged on their current handling of such instances.

In true nature of a dialogue, students were also encouraged to offer suggestions aimed to improve the situation. Many students suggested a re-evaluation of the priorities of SPS, particularly in regards to the attention that reports of harassment currently receive. Many students expressed a desire for security to provide more thorough follow up on reports of harassment to the students involved in the incidents.

In reaction to a perceived increase in number of community members, specifically local registered sex offenders, on campus, student’s suggested that areas such as the library be restricted to student use only. Provost Carolyn Newton and Dean Holmes both spoke to this point, explaining that since the library houses public records, it legally must be open to the public at-large. Dean Holmes did suggest that while complete restriction cannot be implemented, limited and controlled access to the computers might deter some of the angst surrounding this.

There were mixed feelings surrounding suggestions that more community outreach by the students would reduce negative interactions between students and local residents. Opinions were split; certain students believed that while community outreach is important, it fails to foster the necessary connection between students and those select community members who are responsible for harassment. Others suggested that the college community cannot expect locals to respect them until the divide between “us and them” is breached.

Carpenter ended the forum after two hours, but assured the group that “the discussion is certainly not over.”

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