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Site allows students to air worries

StudCo hopes to centralize student discussion about crime activity through Off-Grounds Safety Forum

Student Council launched a new website yesterday designed to address concerns about the recent string of criminal activity against students.

The launch of the Off-Grounds Safety Forum comes in the wake of a perceived increase in crimes taking place near Grounds involving students, including several muggings and one case of sexual assault. There also was a shooting not related to anyone affiliated with the University on 13th Street early Sept. 26.

"This is going to help us show to the administration that [safety] is an issue," Council President Colin Hood said. "We're trying to clarify all the different efforts that Student Council is already starting."

A central purpose of the new website is to create a space where students can centralize their concerns. To help make students aware of its creation, Hood sent an e-mail to the student body yesterday announcing the new forum, where they can post anonymous comments discussing their views on safety both on and off Grounds. By the end of the day, the site had accumulated nearly 90 comments.

The website is the latest in a series of safety-related initiatives by Council, such as plans for a "Safe Walk" program that will provide partners for students who would otherwise have to walk alone at night.

In addition, Hood said, Council will continue trying to enact an after-hours parking initiative in the Central Grounds parking garage between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. for students who want to drive to the libraries at night. This initiative was attempted two years ago but failed because of the revenue loss the garage would suffer, as well as the safety concerns associated with having an open parking garage at night.

In addition, lighting concerns both on and off Grounds have continued to be prominent topics in discussions about University safety.

"I certainly get calls from students who are concerned about the lighting around the buildings," Off Grounds Housing Manager Vicki Hawes said. "We can look at the lighting, but I think the big thing we need to talk about is it's just not safe to walk around at 2 o'clock in the morning by yourself."

Council also has held discussions with the Charlottesville and University Police Departments about increasing police presence on the Corner and in off-Grounds housing areas. Moreover, Council has discussed extending the Fine Arts Library hours to accommodate students who do not want to walk to libraries located on Central Grounds at night.

"That's a library located on an off-Grounds area where a lot of students live," Hood said. "Late-night hours would prevent them from having to walk to Clemons."

Some students have found the website to be an important step toward the improvement of safety on and off Grounds.

"I think it's a really good place where students can talk about what they think is important for safety," third-year Commerce student Nora Meehan said. "It's a great first attempt to start making changes."

The forum can reflect how the area around the University may not always feel safe for students.

"Last year I lived down Wertland [Street] and I definitely felt unsafe when I walked home alone, whether from the library or on the weekend," Meehan said.

Still, this level of concern has not extended to all students.

"I don't feel concerned about being attacked," fourth-year College student Jason Ha said of his walk to and from Hereford, attributing his feeling of security to the fact that he is male.


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