Editor’s Note: Campus limitations no excuse for lack of security

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Editor's Note: New CFO needs to bring financial confidence back

By Editor-in-Chief

Attending college in an urban environment is, for most students, an exciting and nonthreatening experience. There are times, however, that challenge students’ sense of safety and prove a need for reform. 

In the span of a week beginning Oct. 5, three students had laptops stolen by a man—suspected to be the same perpetrator for all of the incidents and with no known Columbia affiliation—who entered campus buildings, grabbed the electronic from their hands and ran off, as reported in The Chronicle’s Front Page story.

According to another student who had her laptop stolen in September, the man who stole her laptop may also have committed the other robberies as well, though it is not confirmed and a collegewide email was never sent out after her incident.

The crimes could have been much more serious. None of the robbery victims was physically harmed, and in a time where campus shootings are a legitimate fear, it may seem lucky it was just a robbery. However, robberies in which the perpetrator feels comfortable enough to steal in plain view of the owners and witnesses without being caught triggers a call of adopting realistic security measures to make Columbia’s open campus less accessible to unwanted visitors.

The Office of Campus Safety &  Security, whose officers arrived promptly on the scene for some of the robbery victims, has created several initiatives in past semesters to improve students’ sense of security. These include hiring several part-time watch commanders who are all retired police officers and, most recently, installing in the near future an emergency tower near the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building, according to Associate Vice President of Safety & Security Ron Sodini.

The college’s security team has also demonstrated transparency and has now given the Chicago Police Department the evidence needed to move forward with the case and potentially catch the perpetrator, but its abilities to ensure safety are still limited by Columbia’s architectural and space restrictions.

These robberies are not the first time Columbia students have been susceptible to dangerous individuals in campus buildings. During the Fall 2015 Semester, a 41-year-old man was arrested and charged with felony criminal sexual abuse after groping a female student in the Theatre Center, 72 E. 11th St., as reported Sept. 23, 2015, by The Chronicle.

The college implemented a program during the Spring 2016 Semester of requiring I.D. checks at several campus buildings, including the Theatre Center, as reported March 28 by The Chronicle. Other buildings received trial runs over the summer, as reported June 8. 

Sodini also told The Chronicle about plans to expand the practice with more Columbia spots in later months, which is something several victims of the October robberies  expressed interest in. However, he added that there are several buildings with multiple entrances, making it difficult to implement I.D. checkpoints. 

Students should not have to risk their sense of security because their classes are in a building with two doors instead of one. Long overdue, across-the-board safety measures should be discussed and put in place for all buildings and student spaces. Whether this includes limiting access points or assigning security officers to different, less secure areas of each building, the benefits greatly outweigh the difficulties.

While difficult to implement due to Columbia’s open, urban environment, it is critical that checkpoints in all of the college’s buildings are established in light of these incidences—blatant examples of the need for tighter security. These up-close-and-personal robberies act as a scary wake-up call that college security must be stepped up immediately.