Finally, a Columbia student responded to the Office of Campus Safety and Security alert message and said what we’re all thinking, or at least what I’m thinking.
After security sent an e-mail on Feb.10, a student was able to “reply to all” and sent a message to the entire college about incident alert messages that offer little information about the suspects, like their gender, height and clothing description. The student said the alert only encourages racial profiling because it only says “African American offenders.” I agree.
The suspects’ descriptions are vague, and the security office fails to give any helpful precautionary measures or ones that aren’t obvious already.
Students could benefit from tips like these: Remove keys from purses and debit and credit cards from wallets and put them in your pocket if you feel threatened or are out late; carry only a minimal amount of money in your pants pocket, and leave $10 or so in the wallet so thieves leave you alone after giving up a little cash. Also, put your IDs in your pocket if you’re out late because they are a pain to replace if your wallet or purse is stolen.
Right now, the alerts tell people not to travel alone or be distracted by talking on the phone or listening to music. These are ideal but not practical.
The cookie-cutter e-mail also suggests taking public transit if carrying packages. This sounds like the worst solution if you’re carting around anything of value or something large enough to take your attention away from a thief. Instead, take a taxi.
Campus Safety and Security’s last tip is to call the police or Columbia’s security command center if there’s a suspicious person around. The last thing you should expect is the Chicago Police Department to send officers to your location to check a suspicious person. There are a minimal number of police on the streets as it is. Calling in a strange person for eyeing you on the el won’t be a priority for them, and it shouldn’t be. Imagine calling every time you saw someone suspicious; you’d be on the phone constantly.
The safety rules I’ve listed have kept me safe. I certainly didn’t learn these tips from a Columbia security office, but from experience.
If those messages are meant to alert and inform, they’re doing a poor job. Students need as many details about suspects as possible while also saying how to prevent a potential crime and how to react if it happens. It seems as though the alerts provide minimal information to meet federal safety requirements not to actually protect or inform students.