Shelter in Place: University of Minnesota and Student Safety

For those of you who missed it:

The University of Minnesota was under a shelter in place warning yesterday. Around 3:30pm a man entered one of the classroom buildings on campus and attempted to rob a student at gunpoint. He escaped when the student screamed. No shots were fired. The suspect is still at large.

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know about the campus shutdown.  In fact,quite a few students didn’t know about it either. Only a text message was sent out to inform students of the danger. A text message…on a campus with notoriously bad cell reception.

The real issue here and what is most disturbing is that this event is NOT UNCOMMON here at the University of Minnesota. This semester assaults, armed robberies, and muggings have skyrocketed. There have been over 40 in the past two months alone.

Each time the same group of suspects have been described. Each time campus police say they are deploying more patrols and will try harder. Then it happens again and we get the same empty promises. Not surprisingly, the man with the gun fits the description of one of the men from the other robberies and assaults on campus.

The campus police cannot be faulted entirely for the onslaught of incidences on campus. They are only a small force more suited to containing drunken minors than dealing with armed robberies. They can be blamed for not calling in a team more equipped for this type of problem. It was only over the Halloween weekend, after dozens of assaults and robberies, that the campus police called in the help of the Minneapolis Police Department. Why? A woman was allegedly beaten and raped by the same group of suspects.

These events aren’t widely known to the public either. The campus seems to be diligently working at keeping this news out of the media. They are having enough trouble recruiting football players with the head football coach on medical leave. I’m sure it would be much harder if students knew they need riot gear to leave the dorms after dark.

Safety is a two-way street.  Students need to be aware of the dangers of being out late in a big city after dark.  For the most part I see students walking in groups after dark.  That being said, the last dozen or so attacks have targeted those in groups.  So that is no longer a safe option these days either.  This leaves the ball back in the law enforcement’s court.

Statically speaking, these men are bound to screw up sooner or later. In my opinion, it should have been yesterday when a man with a gun entered a building in broad daylight in the middle of a busy afternoon. How many students have to be harmed before the University of Minnesota starts acting in earnest? Will it take an actually shooting to step up the efforts?

I can promise you that students won’t wait that long.  If you are going to charge us an arm and a leg to get an education, you damn well better protect us. This is Minneapolis and you are not the only university in this town.

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