Around 1 a.m. in spring 2018, I was walking back from the PCL with my friend. As we were walking on Guadalupe Street, a woman called for our attention. Hysterically crying, she asked if we could call her an Uber, promising not to hurt us. It was dark outside, and I couldn’t see the details of her person too well, but from a distance, it looked like she was hiding one of her arms under her shirt. I was concerned she had a weapon. I whispered to tell my friend, and we sprinted all the way back to our apartment, not stopping until we reached the lobby.
Even though West Campus is technically not on the UT campus, the University should do more to ensure the safety of students who live there. This can be achieved by implementing more security and police officers to patrol the West Campus area.
West Campus safety can be a tough thing for the University to tackle because of jurisdictional differences between the UT Police Department and the Austin Police Department. According to Jimmy Johnson, the assistant vice president for Campus Safety, UTPD has very little jurisdiction past Guadalupe Street.
“As we start getting in areas that are past (Guadalupe Street), we really don’t have that jurisdictional
responsibility,” Johnson said.
Despite limited jurisdiction, UTPD can still respond to any violent crime reported in West Campus, said UTPD officer Andrew Converse. According to Converse, there are also some UTPD officers who patrol all of West Campus.
“Especially on night shift, we’ll have officers get out, park near (Guadalupe), just walk around the vicinity,” Converse said. “(They) say hi to people (and) check in with the businesses.”
The work the University campus safety team and UTPD have done to improve safety in West Campus should not be understated. Education and increased lighting are a few ways safety has improved, Johnson said.
Despite these enhancements and the patrol of some UTPD officers, many students still feel unsafe walking through West Campus at night.
Emily Rosuck, an international relations and global studies sophomore, said she has had several scary encounters in West Campus, including a stranger licking her ear and a man trying to take food from her.
“I’ve been approached multiple times, and it’s scary,” Rosuck said. “I feel like I need to be on high alert when I’m walking around West Campus.”
Rosuck said West Campus could function in a similar manner as 6th Street, where police officers patrol the area primarily to deter crime.
“There are always policemen on 6th Street, and they’re not necessarily there to (arrest people),” Rosuck said. “They’re there to prevent things from happening.”
Some may argue the University does not have a major responsibility to ensure students are safe off campus. However, the enormous size of UT’s student body, coupled with limited space on campus, leads to many students living off campus. Unlike many other colleges across the country, not even freshmen are guaranteed a living space on campus, and as a result, 82 percent of students live off campus.
“It’s not like all the students could live on campus … there’s not enough housing,” Rosuck said. “By default, (students) have to live in West Campus.”
Because many students are forced to live off campus, the responsibility to ensure student safety in West Campus falls heavily on the University. The University needs to work with UTPD to increase patrolling of the area and allow students a greater feeling of safety and security.
Corwin is a journalism sophomore from Long Island, NY.