Students raised questions regarding lighting on campus, safe transportation from campus to their residences and the homeless population in West Campus during a campus discussion Wednesday afternoon.
The UT Senate of College Councils, Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly hosted an event called “Campus Conversation on Campus Safety” to bring students and University leaders, such as UTPD, together to address issues of safety on and around campus.
David Carter, Chief of the UT Police Department, said UTPD wants to fully engage the campus community in the months following the homicide of Haruka Weiser.
“We understand the nature of the tragedy and the grieving process along with the fear that a situation like the recent homicide causes,” Carter said. “We are not standing by waiting for something to happen.”
Carter said UTPD has an interim plan of increased safety measures currently in place that will continue until the end of the semester.
“We’re going to have a safety van program to provide rides for students,” Carter said. “We’re borrowing vans from other University departments and using our security personnel to staff the vans. We’ve adjusted our shift hours according to the resources we have on hand.”
Carter added that UTPD will bring in police officers from other UT institutions and hopes to develop a stronger relationship with SURE Walk, a student-led volunteer group that provides walks to and from campus for students, faculty and staff.
“There was always a respect for the SURE Walk program, but we want to develop a robust partnership,” Carter said. “At the end of the day, it’s the relationship between the police and the community together to maintain safety.”
Carter said it’s important for students to express their safety concerns to UTPD.
“[UTPD] can make assumptions all day long, but unless we actually hear from the student community, we may not necessarily know,” Carter said. “The communication is so vital, and we hope students will share information with us and have a dialogue.”Carter said long-term solutions will be influenced by a Department of Public Safety survey that will address many issues of safety on campus including security cameras, lighting and police patrol location and effectiveness.
“We want to see the survey report that will come in around the end of August,” Carter said. “Our long-term goal is to make sure our community regains a sense of safety.”
Senate President Sergio Cavazos said he and other student leaders want to serve as the bridge between the student body and UT administration.
“We want to compile as much information as possible from the students, and we want to present that information to UT administrators,” Cavazos said. “There’s a lot of talk in these meetings in terms of different concerns, but these things need to be on the administrators’ radars.”
Economics sophomore Katherine Horstman said she thinks the discussion showed there are many students who felt shaken by the recent homicide.
“Giving this conversation as an outlet for the students to voice their concerns was really beneficial to the community,” Horstman said. “I think the questions were well addressed, but the real proof will come in the work that follows this campus conversation.”