A new student safety organization plans to put locks on every door and direct Austin City Council’s 2020 budget toward student safety.
Horns for Safety, a student group that officially became a campus organization two weeks ago, aims to promote the safety of the UT community, said community outreach officer James Richardson. The organization had its first meeting Monday evening at Burdine Hall.
Richardson, who was an undergraduate when former students Haruka Weiser and Harrison Brown were killed on campus, said he wanted to advocate for student safety because he did not think the University took enough responsibility after those incidents.
“The tipping point for me was when Harrison was attacked,” said Richardson, a second-year law student. “The lecture hall I was in — there wasn’t a lock on the inside of it. We were all stuck there, and we couldn’t go on lockdown. That was the first moment when I felt like there’s something not quite
Although no students attended its first meeting, the group presented their accomplishments and plans to work with University and city officials over the semester.
“(We want) to make sure that every classroom and every lecture hall can be locked from the inside and professors have the faculty to be able to do that,” Richardson said. “What we would like to see (from the Austin City Council) is more of an emphasis on safety and security in West Campus (by) improving lighting in many places … and trimming hedges and bushes that impede walkways and make it difficult to see.”
Richardson said they have been working with Jimmy Johnson, assistant vice president for campus safety; Cary Roberts, executive director at Greater Austin Crime Commission; public safety commissioner Chris Harris and Kathie Tovo, District 9 council member. The city officials have been helping the group understand what they need to present to the city council for the 2020 budget process in the spring, Richardson said.
Johnson told the group his office would add locks to all campus doors without locks if the group provided him a list, Richardson said, so the organization prepared a survey to send to faculty and staff to determine which doors need to be locked.
The group is also advocating for placing unarmed security guards in West Campus, similar to the University of Southern California’s safety model, said president Jordyn Jensen, a youth and communication studies senior. The safety advocacy nonprofit SafeHorns is also advocating for this initiative, said SafeHorns president Joell McNew.
“There’s things called (Homeless Outreach Street Teams), which is medical personnel, an off-duty cop and someone from a homeless nonprofit organization (who) walk around downtown and help people out … while making sure they’re behaving properly,” Jensen said. “We technically have them one night a week in West Campus, but I’ve personally never seen them. We want more presence in West Campus.”
McNew said SafeHorns is excited to support Horns for Safety because the student voice in safety advocacy is critical.
“SafeHorns is honored to work with Horns for Safety and support them to the extent that our goals overlap while fully respecting the autonomy of the students and their organization because, again, the student voice is number one,” McNew said.