Volume 90, Issue 72

Friday, January 31, 1997

big stick


Safety solutions

By Donna MacMullin
Gazette Staff

After four years of research Western's president's committee on the safety of women has issued a report which makes specific recommendations to promote awareness and improve conditions for women on campus.

The committee was formed in 1992 with a mandate to assess the physical aspects of the campus and issues surrounding attitudes towards women. The report emphasizes accomplishments made by the committee and their impact on developing future initiatives and goals.

"The report raises a number of issues and the most recent incident of sexual assault is definitely a huge concern," said Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration. On Jan. 28 there was a sexual assault attempt against a female student on University College hill.

The incident is a recent example which has raised concern over campus safety and the effectiveness of the UPD which has had to cope with staffing cutbacks over the last two years.

One of the recommendations made in the report was that cuts in campus policing be re-examined to see if their impact raises the risk to women's safety on campus, as well as the safety of officers to an unacceptable degree.

Katherine Chyla, a third-year political science student, has been involved in an ongoing campaign to have the University Police Department reinstated to its full capacity. In October, she and other students gathered a petition with close to 100 signatures of students concerned about the cuts, which was forwarded to the university. "Nothing came of it," she said adding she expected a response from Mercer, but he never called.

Chyla said Tuesday's incident of attempted sexual assault on campus is cause for concern. "[The police's] lack of presence is being noticed," she said. "This is exactly what we we're afraid of."

Const. Wendy McGowan of the UPD said the police are constantly working to improve safety on campus but hopes to see more involvement from the Western community as well. "It is a shared responsibility," she said. "Support also needs to come from the administration to identify community concerns.

"You must keep in mind that you are responsible for your own safety as well."

Although the recent incident of sexual assault has raised considerable concern among the entire Western community, Mercer said the university is by and large a safe place in general. The 1995-96 report on the survey of graduating students indicated approximately 68 per cent of graduates were satisfied with the level of safety on campus, he added.

As a result of the committee recommendations, Mercer said the administration intends to take steps to augment the resources of Foot Patrol and implement a campus crime watch service to assist campus police, among other initiatives which will be explored.

In terms of improving safety for women on campus McGowan said the key is to provide information. "Western is a unique community. It is very transient and diverse – we must provide resources which meet the needs of everyone," she said.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997