Compromising safety, yet again

March 19th, 2009

I tried really hard, but like Mike Moran during a hoops game, this column is about to get a little insane. 

While I was planning on penning some capricious discourse on child beauty pageants, a story concerning Campus Safety Services presented itself and spoke to me in ways I just could not disregard. 

During Spring Break last week, a John Carroll University student’s sense of safety was demolished after CSS failed to correctly respond to a frantic request. The female senior was home alone at her University-owned house on Milford Road when a man knocked on her door and asked to come inside. Acting tense and demanding, the man insisted he be let into the house, explaining that he knew a girl who lived there.  

After the student refused to meet the inquiry and shut the door, the man then proceeded to stand outside the house. Uneasy about the situation, the woman did what most students would probably do – call for help. Not knowing the University Heights Police Department’s phone number off the top of her head, she did the next best thing and called that familiar extension that has been seared into all our brains: Ext. 4600. 

What ensued was an outrageous conversation between the student and the CSS dispatcher. 

The girl asked if an officer could drive by to check on her and get the man off the property. I’d like to think that in this situation the dispatcher would have just sent over an officer to check on the girl; it was in the middle of the afternoon during Spring Break. How busy could they possibly be? 

Apparently, pretty busy. 

Instead, the dispatcher’s reply to the young woman was something along the lines of, “Why didn’t you just call University Heights police?” After explaining that she was a John Carroll student living in a University-owned home and didn’t have the UHPD number handy, the dispatcher again reiterated how she just “should have really called UHPD.” 

According to the young woman, about 15 minutes elapsed before CSS finally responded to her call. By then the man was gone, along with the student’s faith in JCU’s ability to protect its’ students. Regardless of the circumstances, CSS once again failed to be committed to student safety. It should not matter how miniscule a request is – dispatchers are supposed to treat all situations as if they were threatening. 

After speaking to CSS, I was informed that a log of what transpired between the young woman and the dispatcher was kept for public use but was not available to me because a supervisor was not on duty. 

In a time when college girls continue to be a target of rape and murder, there is no room for indolence. I would think that after CSS’ failed ability to respond correctly to a sexual misconduct incident in Dolan Hall last spring, methods and procedures would have been safeguarded.  

No, it is still dedicating its time and energy into making sure that all parking ticket violators are being brought to justice. 

What is it going to take? Even though the young woman wasn’t harmed, would she had to have been raped or assaulted for CSS to find it “appropriate” to respond?

I fear that unless people don’t speak up and approach the appropriate administrators with their qualms, it’s going to stay the same.