Your concerns for the safety of students on campus are not unreasonable by any means. On the environmental, sociological, and personal levels, I can understand the issues you have uncovered in your effort to question “Safety for Everyone”, for I too, find myself (especially when I lived on campus for two years) in all areas of campus (secluded or busy), at all hours (day or night) everyday (Monday to Sunday) contemplating the same concerns. Separate the fact that I am a 22-year-old female—a position notoriously entrenched with stereotypical assumptions of vulnerability and inferiority (skeptics: don’t even try to deny it)—even more important to consider regarding the origin of my opinions is my academic background: a fifth-year double major in crime, law, and deviance, and women and gender studies, with a minor in sociology. Therefore, it is through these lenses that your analysis of crime prevention, awareness of deviance, social inhibitions and misogyny become clear to me and not via the fact that I am a “typical female, afraid of the dark and socialized to be fearful of predators’ attacks” (which I am not).
While I would argue that the precautions taken by the university to protect vulnerable and contentious students (independent of their gender) have been significant in high-traffic areas, the campus-wide implementation of these methods of crime prevention through environmental design has been hindered by the ambition to maintain Credit Valley’s natural integrity. It is true that in recent years the wooded and dangerous areas of UTM have become smaller and less frequent; however, to an unacceptable degree there are still a number of areas capable of hosting (in daylight or dark, with a crowd around or without) an “incident” of any proportion.
Similarly, the university is lacking in its recognition of the realities of our society. A couple of walk-safe volunteers equipped with flashlights available for escort are inconvenient to students in a rush, and therefore ineffective. Also, as addressed in your article, despite its size the culture of alcohol abuse is present in academic communities like UTM, and in accordance to that culture, sexual harassment (FYI, short skirts are not an open invitation for contact!), violence against women, racialized aggression, and other forms of cruelty go hand-in-hand. Keep in mind that this reasoning is not sourced from gossip, popular media, or stereotype; this is the result of four and a half years of criminal and social study of statistics, theory, law, policy, deviance, social reasoning, and systemic oppression.
“Safety for Everyone” has effectively shone the proverbial light on an issue in much need of reform inside the university. From the crime prevention perspective, lighting, video surveillance, police presence, walk-safe volunteers, and emergency contact tools need to be increased on campus, if not for the sake of actual use, than at least to give the illusion that UTM cares about wary students, staff, and faculty. Furthermore, a stronger message needs to be given that violence on campus is intolerable, so that pub nights, social events, and even lectures don’t turn volatile or criminal. Any oppositional arguments, ignorance, or jokes about the nature of this article should be critically interpreted as counter-effective, naïve, and an insult to the academic institutions of this university, for every aspect of my response to this editorial is founded in its disciplines.
President of the UTM Women
and Gender Studies Action Group