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Commentary: Student safety must always be a priority

Sophomore+Eliza+Walther+writes+about+her+experience+with+public+safety+and+the+importance+of+supporting+all+students.
Grace Vanderveer
Sophomore Eliza Walther writes about her experience with public safety and the importance of supporting all students.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest commentary. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

When Ithaca College students think of the Office of Public Safety, words like “reliable,” “helpful” and “safe” come to mind. However, this response is not the case for every student, and I am one of those students who have experienced a lack of support from our school’s public safety office.

My experience occurred during the first week back of Fall 2023. I came back to my room around 8:30 p.m. As I walked into my room on the third floor, I saw a snake right in the middle of the room. As I got closer to make sure I was seeing things right, it slithered away, so I ran downstairs to tell my friends. We first knocked on the doors of both the RAs in our building. After multiple knocks, there was no answer behind either door. With that, our next idea was to call Public Safety. 

My friend called and told an officer the situation and he hung up on us. We called back and re-explained the story to the same officer, and he asked if we were sure there was a snake or if we were just imagining it. He asked for photo or video proof before he would do anything. As he spoke, I started to wonder if he was only questioning my report because I am a woman. Would he have said the same thing if a man was on the phone?

Our only option was to go back into my room to see if we could find the snake. My one friend was eventually able to get a video of the snake under my bed. We called Public Safety back and let them know we had proof. Unfortunately, the same officer answered the phone and told us that there was nothing he could do about it, but he might be able to let pest control know about the situation. He called back later to let us know pest control would be here “at some point tonight or tomorrow.” What is someone supposed to do with a snake in their room, having no idea when it would be removed? 

At this point, it was about 11 p.m. and pest control still had not shown up. I did not feel comfortable sleeping in my room so I ended up staying at a friend’s place off campus for the night. My friend stayed up and waited for pest control to arrive. Once they did, they were unable to find the snake. Since nothing was resolved from this, I scheduled a meeting with the Office of Residential Life for Friday and was able to move into a new room by Monday. Even with this resolution, I was still left feeling unsure as to whether or not my safety is actually Public Safety’s number one priority.  

I am not the only one who has had a negative encounter with Public Safety. One of my friends told me that one night during this semester, the pipes burst in a Garden Apartment. When she called Public Safety, she was informed that no one was on call that night so there was nothing they could do about it. The next morning, she called again and was told that there is always someone on call to help students, so she was lied to. Both of these situations make me think. Would Public Safety react the same way if a woman called and said she was being followed by a man? I would hope they would take a report like that more seriously, but then that raises another question: Why is Public Safety only concerned about women’s well-being when it involves men? 

 From my knowledge, these officers are still working for Public Safety with no retaliation. If this is the case, they should be penalized. Students should not be mistreated by the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe.

Eliza Walther (she/her) is as sophomore sports media major. Contact her at [email protected].

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Grace Vanderveer, Co-Design Editor
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    Mark CuttenApr 1, 2024 at 3:01 am

    In the early 1970s IC established a Student Advisory Safety Patrol [SASP] associated with the Thompkins County Sheriffs Dept. Its purpose was to observe and notify of criminal or health risk behavior. I was one of perhaps 15-20 volunteer [paid] SASP patrol students. We were all trained in First Aid [near EMT level] and self defense with Strict Rules to Not engage but report suspicious activity to Sheriffs Dept through Dispatch.Not sure if this org still exists,doubt as head of Stu Union,David [Novak?] use it it as his private fiefdom and ruined its effectiveness.I left because of him.But we did do many Positive things and would have easily handled your experience in a positive fashion.Mostly we handled ODs and sexual assault incidences.We saved most, lost a few in my hands that haunt me to this day.But saved many more to All my SASP colleagues credit.

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