Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

The Independent

Eagle Eye Editorial

Lakeesha J. Harris, Senior Staff Writer

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While doing her homework in the LWH lower level computer lab last week, my 17-year-old daughter was verbally assaulted. The assailant wasn’t a student of NEIU, and gauging from my personal interactions with him, he was not mentally stable either. In the effort to stabilize the situation, I found myself requesting the services of the University’s Police. This came with its own set of problems, as the officers seemed irritated by our request to file a complaint against this individual.

Upon learning of my daughter’s encounter, other students recounted stories of sexual assault as well as verbal and physical abuse taking place on the NEIU campus. Though these crimes are taking place on our campus, they have either been excluded from the current police data or underreported by students, as campus reports make little to no mention of assaults of any kind at our university.

In a report dated July 2010 entitled the Safety and Security Information Report, it lists the number of sex crimes (forcible and non-forcible), aggravated assault, and hate crimes as zero on the main and other campuses. There is no listing for verbal assaults or harassment. What should be noted is that in this same report, the university states that it is “committed to educating the campus community about awareness and prevention of sexual assault and its consequences, providing support services to victims of sexual assault, thoroughly investigating alleged incidents of sexual assault, and disciplining student and employee perpetrators of such acts of violence.”

The personal safety of NEIU students on our university campus needs to be addressed and the official recommendations and information released needs to be updated, especially for women. For example, campus safety recommends the Adult and Women’s Students Office as a conduit to learn safety measures, and engaging this office when an assault has occurred. This office no longer existed as of Feb. 2011.

Further instructions for campus safety point towards accessibility to phones in the elevators as a direct connection to campus security, however, most elevators that I’ve come across have no phones that are accessible to students. Finally, this reports states that “crime prevention articles and materials are published in the student newspaper.” I’ve been writing for the Independent newspaper for the last two years and have yet to see one article from our public safety officials that outline current mechanisms of defense for students on our campus.

This goes directly against the Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act which states: “Institutions must publish an annual report disclosing campus security policies and three years’ worth of selected crime statistics. Institutions must make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees. Each institution with a police or security department must have a public crime log. The U.S. Department of Education centrally collects and disseminates the crime statistics. Campus community sexual assault victims are assured of certain basic rights. Institutions that fail to comply may be fined or lose eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs.”

It is clear that we as students need to provide for our own safety on the campus of NEIU. Keeping this in mind I have outline a few of my own safety measures that may help until our broken system of protection produces updated security measures.

Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted by electronic devices (cell phones, iPods, and hand-held video game systems).

If you’re going to be working late, go in groups. Ask other students working late to walk you to your car or to public transit.

Talk to professors or other administrative staff if you feel threatened by someone on campus. More often than not they will assist you.

Always let someone know where you’re going and when you intend on being back.

Take a self-defense class when it’s offered. The Women’s Studies program usually offers one for female students each spring by IMPACT Chicago.

Be safe. Be respectful. Enjoy the journey of higher education.

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