U of M student petition calls for more police muscle on campus

Ramp up the security over here (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

Two University of Minnesota students have launched an online petition calling for a greater police presence on campus.

Prompted by the recent rash of crimes, the petition has gained more than 3,100 signatures.

It warns:

If steps are not taken immediately, we, the students, will take matters into our own hands. Many of us are applying to transfer because we cannot tolerate feeling so unsafe and vulnerable. As graduates of Minnesota public school systems that send dozens of high school graduates to the University of Minnesota each year, we will go out of our way to reach out to our communities and urge students not to apply here.

The full text of the petition is below, and is followed by the university’s Nov. 20 response.

But a U spokesman said one small part of the petition is incorrect:

The line “Just this evening our friend tried to help an injured man lying outside a University building who ultimately sprung up and attempted to abduct her” is not an accurate representation of what happened.

The victim talked to UMPD and relayed that the way it was written is not how it happened.

I’ve put in details on what the U says actually happened after the petition.

Here’s the petition:

University of Minnesota Students’ Petition for Increased Police Presence

By Sara Gottlieb and Rachel Sadowsky

To be delivered to: President Kaler, The University of Minnesota Police Department, The Minneapolis Police Department, and our local legislators

We have reached our breaking point. The amount of crime present on campus and in the student-populated surrounding neighborhoods is absolutely unacceptable. It has taken an unbelievably detrimental toll on our lives. Safety must be a priority for the University, and steps must be taken immediately to fix this issue.

First and foremost, we are here to get an education. The recent crime incidents have interfered with our ability to learn: we are not able to go to libraries to study at night because we are afraid to walk home afterwards. We are hesitant to go to night classes for the same reason. We feel imprisoned in our own homes for fear of what could happen to us if we leave. Nowhere feels safe anymore.

These crimes have happened in well-lit and populated areas, and they have happened during the day. Our friend was threatened with a gun and mugged this weekend. A house one block from campus was broken into by masked men with knives. Our classes went on lock down because of an armed man that was never caught or identified. Just this evening our friend tried to help an injured man lying outside a University building who ultimately sprung up and attempted to abduct her. These examples only scratch the surface of the recent events that have occurred on our campus.

As these incidents unfold, it appears as though the University is doing nothing but sending out crime alerts that remind us to stay in groups and not listen to music as we walk at night. This is not enough. Calling 624-WALK isn’t enough. We as students are doing everything we can to be safe, yet we are still at risk.

We are demanding an increase in police presence both on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods to combat this crime. Our campus is a part of the city of Minneapolis, and it is absolutely imperative that the two police forces collaborate to reach the common goal of increasing campus safety.

If steps are not taken immediately, we, the students, will take matters into our own hands. Many of us are applying to transfer because we cannot tolerate feeling so unsafe and vulnerable. As graduates of Minnesota public school systems that send dozens of high school graduates to the University of Minnesota each year, we will go out of our way to reach out to our communities and urge students not to apply here. We will present the signatures on this petition to the media and inform them of the recurring issues. Bad publicity is certainly not something the University needs at this time.

The crime on campus has gotten out of hand, and it needs to be stopped before it gets any worse. We can’t go on living our lives in fear any longer. If what has already happened isn’t enough of a catalyst for change, what is it going to take?

We are not alone in this fight for increased police presence and campus safety. The following individuals agree with our statement:

“As a result of increased crime, I recognize the immediate need for additional police presence on the University of Minnesota campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

A U spokesman related this account about the injured man from police:

This incident occurred last night (Nov. 19) at around 6:20 p.m. The student stated an elderly male who appeared intoxicated fell down near the bus stop outside of Folwell Hall on Pleasant Street.  She and other passersby stopped to check on him and eventually called 911 for an ambulance for him because he said his knee hurt and that he had surgery on it in the past.  Our PSECC dispatched an ambulance and when the male heard an ambulance was coming he became agitated and said he did not want an ambulance.  He then got up and  quickly walked towards a bus that was arriving and while doing so he touched up against the student. The student  stated she never felt threatened by him and that it “was not even possible” for her to be abducted by him because there were so many other people on the scene at that point.

And here’s the U’s Nov. 20 overall response:

University of Minnesota statement regarding campus safety

The safety of students, faculty and staff is the highest priority at the University of Minnesota. The call for more police presence and additional resources has been heard loud and clear.

In the week since President Eric Kaler pledged enhanced measures to increase safety, University Police officers have logged more than 100 hours of overtime, Boynton Health Service has expanded the Gopher Chauffeur service to include Thursday nights and the UMPD Coordinated Response Team has continued its work with the Minneapolis Second Precinct that resulted in seven arrests in two different incidents. Last Friday night, President Kaler accompanied UMPD on a ride-along from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. to witness first-hand the variety of challenges officers face.

Earlier today, President Kaler and Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock met with Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges to discuss campus safety and other University issues. Last week, Wheelock and University Police Chief Greg Hestness met with Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau to discuss University concerns and how to enhance joint efforts to ensure safety near and on campus.

But police presence alone won’t ensure campus and neighborhood safety. Work must continue to build a culture of shared responsibility for safety among students, faculty and staff.

  • Starquest

    I agree that there should be more muscle on campus, but threatening to transfer is laughable.

  • PinguinoRoja

    Campus PD is pretty heavily seen directly on campus.. I don’t think that is the problem. In all honesty, you have to look how the East Bank and West Bank is situated within the city. It is not a college town per say.. it’s actually pretty interwoven within the surrounding neighborhoods. .

    Personally, I’d just prefer them honoring my carry permit on and around campus. I can understand them not wanting guns within school facilities; but when I’m going out to eat or doing other activities, there is no reason why my firearm should be sanctioned to just the parking lot. What good is it there? I would never put my faith into a campus PD officer to save my life against an armed mugger… that is an entirely misplaced defense strategy.

    • TCguns_carry

      We’re in the process of organizing a personal safety event on campus in January, and it will include gathering support for campus carry. Follow us for more info.

  • TCguns_carry

    Police cannot be everywhere. Adding more police is fine (if the money is there), but that only serves to give students, staff and visitors a false sense of security. Students, staff and visitors need to become attuned to the fact that THEY are responsible for their own safety, and they need to take steps to ensure it.

  • Desmond Hume

    The University of Minnesota is located within a major metropolitan area. Apply to Winona or Mankato if you don’t feel safe. That or take online classes back in Edina or Eden Prairie where you grew up.

  • Hugh Shakeshaft

    Students will learn many things down at the U, including life’s lessons about being a victim of a crime. It’s a life changing event that I know all too well. It changes how you travel, where you live, and what you do for work and play. Many enroll down there and are like fawns in the wilderness. I just hope no one loses their life.