November 20, 2007

A safer campus

The death of Ph.D. student Amadou Cisse early yesterday morning has shaken the University community. The Maroon commends the leadership of the administration in handling this tragedy.

The e-mails from President Robert Zimmer and Vice President and Dean of Students Kim Goff-Crews provided detailed information about what happened and how students could take steps to protect themselves. At the townhall meeting yesterday, administrators provided concrete answers to concerns raised by students, faculty, and staff about campus safety.

The University is taking both short- and long-term steps to improve security. Most significantly, the U of C Police Department plans to double the late-night police presence on campus. While we caution against overreacting—“doubling” seems like an arbitrary action rather than the result of careful consideration—we recognize the need for a swift response.

There are additional steps the University should take as soon as possible. The first is revamping the recently designed cAlert system. The purpose of cAlert is to immediately inform University members of threats to campus security, even when details are unclear. Those enrolled in the service received voicemails, text messages, and e-mails almost 10 hours after the shooting—rendering this first-alert system moot. Timely notification would have allowed residents of Burton-Judson and apartments near the Midway to take steps to ensure that they stayed out of danger.

cAlert’s effectiveness is further hampered by its obscurity: Many students simply don’t realize it exists. The system should be widely publicized, and University members should be automatically enrolled and given an option to opt out.

Additionally, the University had removed the blue emergency light nearest the crime scene because of the construction of the new dormitory. It is unlikely that the presence of an emergency light would have deterred the assailant or otherwise prevented the tragedy, but construction is prevalent on campus and should not be an excuse for lax security. The University should have added a new light nearby or otherwise compensated.

While students should keep in mind that this homicide is the first murder of a University student on campus in over 30 years, we should also remember to stay alert on- and off-campus.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.