As a female student that frequents the Downtown Mall, I consider the disappearance of Hannah Graham to be particularly unnerving. I’ve spent this past week contemplating — as I am sure many women on Grounds have — how safe I am in Charlottesville. Honestly, I’m surprised at how little The Cavalier Daily has published on the subject of student safety in the areas of Charlottesville surrounding the University.
The University refuses to take responsibility for the safety of students that pass beyond a narrow radius of security. Quite frankly, I consider this to be akin to neglect and a very serious violation of this university’s promise to keep us safe. The attitude is that each and every student belongs to a “community of trust” right up until University Avenue turns into West Main Street. Then all of the sudden, we, the students that work in restaurants or shops downtown, the students that choose to be part of the Charlottesville community as well as the University community, find ourselves completely on our own.
I can’t enumerate the instances of sexual harassment and dangerous behavior that I have been a target of or witnessed on the Downtown Mall. There are things the University can do to help prevent things like this from happening to students like me. For instance, imagine a UTS bus that shuttles from Grounds to a well-lit and non-desolate stop on the Downtown Mall. There could be an expansion of the blue-light system down West Main Street and onto the Mall. At the very least, the University should report crimes like robbery and sexual assault to the University community via email where they happen.
We have both an opportunity and a responsibility to open up discourse on how to make this city safe. No student should have fear or anxiety as a part of their everyday lives, no matter their gender or proximity to Grounds. The administration at the University has promised to be here for us, and taking action on this issue is one way they can carry out that promise.