The recent uptake in crime that has taken place over the last few weeks has many Ohio State students — especially those who live off-campus where the robberies have taken place — on alert. When I check my email everyday, I now almost expect to have a Timely Warning in my inbox, informing me of yet another robbery. It is becoming increasingly clear that something must be done and that OSU officials must take some kind of action to help protect us, rather than giving veiled advice in an email.
Late last week President E. Gordon Gee released the following email to the student body about the crimes:
Dear Students and Colleagues:
I write to let you know my plans for addressing the recent incidents of crime occurring in the areas adjacent to our campus. I have convened a small team of senior University leaders — from Student Life, Public Safety, and other areas — to provide recommendations for a comprehensive program that will help to ensure our students’ safety. The team’s recommendations are due to me next week, and we will begin implementing new strategies the following week.
Clearly, we will do everything possible to provide for the safety and well-being of our students. That is our shared commitment for the foundation of a University community.
E. Gordon Gee
Gee’s letter is a positive sign that the university is taking this more seriously than they had previously made us feel they were. In the spirit of the letter, I offer a few suggestions on what the university can do immediately for us, its students.
Contact Columbus city authorities and settle petty jurisdictional turf war
It is asinine to think that OSU Police have jurisdiction to act and arrest on the Union-side of High Street but not on the opposite side. It is even crazier to think that there can be university-sponsored off-campus events that are blocks away from campus, but our campus police have no authority over them. Columbus Division of Police has been criticized both by local media and by students for failing to act in a fast manner in the past. Just ask some students on campus, they will tell you they believe that is the case here. End the political games, and work out a cross-jurisdictional agreement today.
Devote more money to the Student Safety Escort service
One of the common complaints that has risen over the Student Safety Escort service is that they always seem to be full. Students complain that they have to make reservations hours in advance for a service they may not know they need until they need it. The problem isn’t with the service itself, the problem seems to be with funding for the service. The escort service is student-run, but they have limited resources so they cannot buy as many vehicles or pay as many staff members as they (presumably) would like because of lack of funds. As with everything in the campus, the escort service has a budget — increase it. Make this a viable option for every student or end the service, because if it isn’t available when students need it and it’s not available because the college won’t give it the money it needs then, the program is not going to work.
Extend Campus Area Bus Service hours / Work out an agreement with local cab companies
Yes, these attacks seem to be occurring during the weekend and usually in the middle of the night, but at least one robbery took place during the early evening hours and another near 6 a.m. on a weekend. These robberies are taking place off campus and on routes that the CABS usually travels pretty close to. I understand that the bus routes are for when classes are in high peak, but it seems when the sun sets (on a weekday when CABS is running), the wait time for the buses increases dramatically. CABS does not run as often on weekends when most of us have our free time and are out and about. The obvious option here is to extend bus service hours on weekends and perhaps later at night during Friday evenings. If that is not an option, then work out some shared agreement with a local cab company to take students home on reduced prices or for free. When students are being robbed because they are walking home, the obvious solution is to provide every option to make sure students are not walking home.
All of us — students and school officials, as well as local officials — have to have an open and honest communication about the recent attacks. As students, we have to trust that the authorities and our leaders at school are doing all that they can. To some, that trust hasn’t been earned right now (when Columbus police claim one day that crime is not on an upswing, only to admit it after the fifth attack in less than two weeks, it tends to make us not trust them). That is why Gee’s initiative is the right solution.
President Gee, I implore you to please come up with real solutions, not temporary stopgap measures, and to do so quickly. You proudly profess how much you care about students and the OSU community. Here is your chance to prove it with real results. We’re counting on you.