Welcome (back) to Duke. For those of you new to campus, here’s a tip that might help you in the years to come: either you or someone you know is going to be attacked, mugged, assaulted, raped, swindled, hoodwinked or bamboozled while you’re on campus. It’s going to happen. Crime happens, especially at a place with kids as rich, young, naïve and new to city life as at Duke.
Your first exposure to crime will most likely be through The Chronicle’s crime briefs, but they are written by someone with a sense of humor instead of by someone that actually wants to keep us informed. Laptop thefts, you’ll decide, are generally the fault of someone leaving his laptop unwatched. People mugged in the Duke Forest shouldn’t have been running there in the first place. Public masturbation is a crime brief gold mine (remember?).
But I’m tired of lying to freshmen and prospective students about campus safety. Yes, the administration has to walk a delicate line between keeping the students informed about the relative lack of protection we have, while at the same time guarding against unnecessary panic attacks. But I would still expect them to do something about the general situation, which definitely does not include spending any of my tuition money on Segways for police officers. I agree that criminals will be so awestruck by the futuristic devices that they will stop dead in their tracks. Either that or, you know, run up a curb. Or stairs. Or on grass. Maybe that money could have been better spent.
Like on panic buttons in bathrooms. Card readers on bathroom doors. Personal monitoring devices. Oh, wait. We have those—or at least freshman do (and I do not apologize for suggesting that the iPods you’re trying ever so hard not to lose are the administration’s newest way of keeping tabs on you, like those commercials about the old people who fall when nobody is home). But when prompted with those possibilities during a recent radio interview, an administrator shied away from a direct answer, suggesting that a “campus safety task force” is starting to talk about possibilities of future conversations concerning things that might be able to be done on campus. Now all we have to do is sit back and wait for groupthink.
The administration should not be starting to talk about anything; they should be doing something to ease the minds of every female on this campus who is afraid to go to the bathroom, walk to or from their cars by themselves or study in the stacks late at night. They should be acting to ease the minds of guys going to pick up—or deliver—pizza on Central at dinnertime on a weekend evening.
If the administration can’t get its act together (and judging from their response to a few of my friends over the past two years, I can’t imagine that it will), Duke Student Government or Campus Council or somebody needs to make campus safety a priority, with a quickness. I mean immediately, as in “we’re actually going to do something about it instead of scheduling a meeting to talk about it to which nobody comes,” so that someone doesn’t get killed like at UNC-Wilmington.
I genuinely love this school, and I am not lying when I tell prospective students that I don’t want to leave next year. But if you truly love something, you have to have the ability to see its flaws and work to change it for the better. Kind of like the way that it’s patriotic to question your government, as opposed to blindly following whatever it tells you. Pressuring the administration to show us results of increased safety on campus, instead of allowing ourselves to be placated by their promises of “discussions” and “possibilities” and “we can’t do this because it costs too much but it’s not really about the budget, because as you can see we have raised several billion dollars in the past five years” (I’m paraphrasing) shows that we love Duke enough to make it better for those that will come after us.
Eric Vivier is a Trinity senior. His column appears on Friday.
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