UIC Must Act to Keep Students Safe. Enough is Enough, Do Something.
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
11/27/19 UPDATE: The university sent out another official email announcement (Nov 27: Campus Safety and Security Update) with an update on temporary extended parking structure patrols and security positions beginning next week on Dec 2. This is a step in the right direction but there are still improvements that can be made. The rest of this article remains unedited as it was prior to this update.
CHICAGO, NOV 26 2019 -- Students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) are shaken but determined to stay strong following the tragedy of Ruth George's untimely passing. In the aftermath, students demand that the university takes steps to create a safer campus by reinforcing the community with better security measures.
Ruth George was a nineteen-year-old undergraduate studying Kinesiology at UIC. She was an active member of the Honors College program and Delta Epsilon Mu, a pre-health professional fraternity. She was an upstanding and involved member of the UIC community. And like most of UIC's population, George commuted to campus daily.
As per The Chicago Tribune, George was found unresponsive in her car, parked at the UIC Halsted Parking Structure on November 23, 2019. The FBI was brought in and a person of interest was quickly taken into custody. On November 25, 2019, Donald Thurman was charged with criminal sexual assault and the first degree murder of Ruth George. Thurman has no previous affiliation with George or the university. He was previously convicted of armed robbery and was sentenced to six years in state prison until 2021, but was released on parole last year.
This is already one level of oversight, but is outside of the university's hands. There are, however, measures the university could have taken and should now take to further secure the campus in light of this tragedy. Students at UIC are constantly frustrated with the university's lack of action for most issues, but are especially devastated with the university's inaction following this event.
Lacking in Official University Communications
The university sent out four official communications to the UIC community via email service:
• Nov 23: Message to the UIC Community from Michael Amiridis (Chancellor)
• Nov 24: Update on UIC Police Investigation from Kevin Booker (UIC Chief of Police)
• Nov 24: Loss of UIC student Ruth George from Michael Amiridis (Chancellor)
• Nov 25: Charges filed in UIC student death from Kevin Booker (UIC Chief of Police)
As each email was sent out in real time, the majority of each release is understandably comprised solely of facts and details as they were uncovered. However, the most frustrating part of these emails is the brief emphasis on "the importance of following simple safety steps" combined with the complete lack of any mentions on how UIC will take further security measures in the future.
There has been absolutely zero talk about increasing campus safety from the university's end, instead pushing students to take measures to fend for theirselves. The university pushes undertones of victim blaming without taking any responsibility for lacking security measures that could have prevented this tragedy. Retrospect is 20/20, sure, but if anything, this can be a catalyst to secure campus and truly make it safer for a population of nearly thirty-thousand students.
Those same students feel that the university is not taking this situation and its implications about campus safety seriously enough. Many have taken to social media to voice their frustration with the university:
Lacking in University Resources
At first glance, UIC appears to have ample campus security and safety measures. Every freshman and transfer students goes through an orientation that includes a talk from the UIC Police and assurance in the safety measures on campus. Shouldn't that be enough? But if that's the case, then how is crime a constant on and around campus? How did this happen?
The university boasts a variety of safety measures available to students, but students speculate that they are ineffective, not reliable, or just simply not enough to make a difference in campus safety.
For example, UIC Police holds a monthly free self-defense class for women. University students and community members are given first priority, but classes fill up quickly. After all, there is only one class per month and approximately 14,800 female students. Additionally, there aren't any similar resources available for male-identifying students.
From student rumors, resources like the Night Ride and Safe Walks programs are unreliable. Students have rumored and suggested that calling a service doesn't always guarantee that someone can come in a timely manner, or even at all.
But even if one of these services is available and timely, UIC students should still be able to feel safe enough to walk across campus from one university building to another without them. Students should be able to feel safe inside campus buildings and structures.
It is, after all, a majority commuter campus with a fast-paced culture. This isn't anything new. UIC should recognize this by now and have measures in place to protect students with that kind of culture in mind. If students consistently aren't utilizing services like Night Ride and Safe Walks, then the university should take note of this and consider what other measures can be put into place to keep students safe. If there are patterns then they should be considered and addressed by the university, regardless of any blame or fault alleged on the student body.
Students criticize UIC for the lack of safety and security on campus. Did the university fail Ruth George? And if so, why hasn't the university assured the community that it's doing something to make sure nothing like this happens again?
What UIC Should Do
Ideally, the university should take responsibility and seriously investigate what preventative measures can be installed to ensure a safer campus in the future. The university should want to prevent anything like this from happening again and do whatever it takes to ensure that goal.
A petition to maximize campus safety was started by Michelle Rodriguez, a former UIC student. She calls for UIC to carry out its "responsibility to ensure every property owned is safe and secure." The petition can be found on Change.org and I urge you to sign it here.
Many signees and others have expressed their frustration with the university and have offered solutions that the university can take to create a safer campus. The most common demand is for better and more consistent security and patrol of UIC parking structures. These facilities are not free, students must pay around $300 per semester for a permit. Daily visitors pay up to $15 a day. With the money that goes into UIC Parking Services, students should be able to have security within these facilities.
These signee comments and more can be viewed on the petition page
Students of the University of Illinois at Chicago are no stranger to rising up and demanding action from the Chancellor. Hopefully the university will begin to take steps toward change on its own but if not, the student body has already proved that it can band together and provoke action. From preserving student safety from extreme inclement weather to striking for fair terms for teaching and graduate assistants, the community has proven itself and, if the time comes, will surely prove itself once again.
Jacqueline Oiga is a Marketing Communications & Promotions student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. JacquelineOiga.com is her professional portfolio website, which hosts her personal blog. She also writes about NHL hockey for Belly Up Sports. Jacqueline can be found on Twitter at @jxquelineoh and contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.