University group looks to increase safety

SIU has established a task force to increase university students’ safety.

Chancellor Rita Cheng sent an email Oct. 15 to the university community about the Campus Life and Safety Task Force, which reports to the chancellor ways to increase university security and how to implement them.

“The safety and comfort of our entire campus community is our top priority,” Cheng said in the email. “It is our desire to address promptly any situation perceived unsafe and that causes concern.”

Cheng also said in the email the task force was created to review the Department of Public Safety’s practices in several categories including student mentoring, communication and life skill development.

Cheng said in an interview, she started the group in the spring to have a comprehensive view of safety areas that need work.

She said some recommendations such as improved lighting around campus, more safety information provided to students and stricter check-ins for students who live in residence halls have already been implemented.

Rosemary Simmons, director of the Counseling Center, said she was asked to co-chair the task force and gather information for increased safety.

She said she thinks the safety programs and departments such as the DPS are great for the school but not quite enough to keep everyone safe. She said people need to feel responsible for themselves and everyone around them on campus.

Simmons said she was also asked by the chancellor to co-chair a continued committee that will oversee the task force results for the next two years.

One result of the committee is a mandatory program for incoming freshmen about alcohol abuse and sexual assault, Simmons said.

Todd Sigler, director of DPS, said the task force is more of a contribution toward the community instead of a critique on DPS. He said the task force gave the department a chance to share its concerns with the university on a more personal level.

He said one of the group’s accomplishments has been to increase DPS night safety patrols in poorly lit areas.

Sigler said the task force also wants to get student and visitor input on safety.

While the task force presents and implements ideas to ensure campus safety, campus crimes have recently occurred.

DPS reported batteries on campus Sept. 29 near the Recreation Center, Oct. 9 near Anthony Hall and Oct. 14 in Lot 45. All of these cases involved battery and robbery or attempted robbery.

“It’s not fair to say the report has had an effect yet,” Sigler said.

He said only a few ideas have been implemented so far, and it will take time for others to have any impact.

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