Letter to the Editor: It's become abundantly clear that our university doesn't value students' safety
When I was a freshman here at the UA, I thought the UAlert system was a great initiative that, along with the blue light system, made me feel safe on campus. Not only would I be alerted to incidents on campus, but my mom would also receive alerts to her phone in Phoenix and could text me to inform me of any dangerous threats on campus incase I had not seen the UAlert.
Living on campus, I felt safe and secure in the knowledge that my campus was informing me of dangerous events such as bomb threats, assaults and robberies. I would sometimes have to walk home from the library in the middle of the night, but I did not feel threatened. I did not feel as if I would come to harm and if I did, I felt confident that my campus had protections in place to ensure my safety, even in the crime-ridden city of Tucson.
Since then, however, my attitude has completely changed. The university has no regard for the safety of its students and fails to send out any UAlerts warning students of dangerous situations on campus.
My first sense of alarm occurred after two female students who were walking home just north of campus were robbed. It would have been the reasonable thing for the university to send out an alert informing other students walking around at this time. However, I had no idea this had happened until my roommate’s dad sent her an article about it from the Tucson news because we live right off campus.
Then, a girl was sexually assaulted on campus.
The night before Halloween last year, a young woman was held at knife-point and sexually assaulted, only able to escape when other people who were walking by distracted the man. Why was a UAlert not sent out? It was the night before Halloween and I’m sure there were hundreds of other young women walking around campus. So, why were they not informed that another girl was sexually assaulted on campus and the perpetrator was not found? By not sending an alert out, the university jeopardized the safety of other students on campus. What about other young women who are walking in the same area alone? Without a warning, you are directly putting students in danger.
What about the female student who was sexually assaulted on campus on Feb. 5? She was assaulted at 5:40 a.m. near the Park Student Union, and the suspect was not found. Did anyone get a UAlert about that? No—I got an email through my employment on campus warning me about the incident. The irony? It advises students to sign up for UAlert as a safety precaution! What if I was not employed on campus? What about the other students who should be warned to be alert and careful?
When I was the policy associate director of ASUA last year, I spearheaded the “It’s On Us” campaign against campus sexual assault. I used to not feel personally threatened by sexual assault because I assumed the University of Arizona Police Department was watching out for my safety and that my campus was relatively safe. Over time, I came to realize that I was wrong on both accounts. Not only was I surprised to learn just how many sexual assaults get reported to UAPD, but I have now found out that UAPD does not care about my safety. Now, I cannot say that I feel safe on campus.
The last straw occurred last week. There was a shooting right across the street from campus, with an active shooter on the loose. I live two blocks away from where this shooting occurred, and did I get any notice that my life could be in danger? Of course not. The only reason I even found out about this was because a friend was driving down Campbell Avenue and noticed that the street was completely blocked off.
Living two blocks away from campus, I need to know about incidents like this, same as the rest of UA students. What if I were walking home by myself from the library at this time? I would be at complete risk and have no idea of the dangerous situation I was about to enter.
Even better, when I called the UAPD, I received a rude response that it did not happen directly on campus and thus did not concern them. Are you kidding me? There was an active shooter on the loose right across the street from campus, in a neighborhood that is highly populated by students. How can the university confidently say there is no chance that the shooter did not walk across the street and hide on campus?
On the UAlerts page, it explicitly says that UAlerts will be activated in cases of violent activity including an active shooter and immediate threats to the UA community, including off-campus events. How is this not an immediate threat to the UA community? This incident is literally defined as one of the incidents when UAlerts should be activated; yet there was complete silence.
I am so ashamed of my university. I used to feel safe on campus, but I realize now that it was just because the UA was too preoccupied with its self-image to send out alerts and inform its students of dangerous activity. I received six messages about a trivial power outage, but there was stark silence when an active shooter could have been running around campus, when girls were sexually assaulted or when a student was robbed at gunpoint. The university needs to explain to me and the rest of its students why it chose not to warn us about these incidents. I would love to know what is more important to it than student safety.
To all my fellow students, this is a question that I want answered by the UA. Call UAPD (520-621-8273) and demand an answer. I will be starting a petition to show the concern of all students, and I encourage you all to sign it. If you and I cannot feel safe at our own university, then UAPD and our school are failing at their jobs.
Ashlee Bierworth is a UA Junior studying Political Science and Law.