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Committee Examines Safety on Campus

By Sarah Keightley
Associate News Editor

In an effort to increase crime awareness and make the Campus Police more accessible to students, several organizations have formed a committee called Project Awareness. Still in its early stages of development, this campus safety committee is made up of dormitory representatives brought together by the Undergraduate Association Safety Committee, the Campus Police, and the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs.

Project Awareness was created because of the need to talk about personal safety, to publicize Campus Police services and resources, and to get "many parts of the community working together" on these issues, said Eliot S. Levitt, staff assistant at the ODSA. Furthermore, Project Awareness is looking for student input on safety issues.

Each dormitory is required to send two or three representatives to Project Awareness meetings. Currently, there are about twenty students on the committee. In recent months, Project Awareness has met every few weeks, but Levitt said the group will meet more often in the near future. In addition to meetings, Project Awareness committee members communicate through an electronic mailing list.

Project Awareness hopes to demonstrate that students need to "take a look at crimes in dorms" and to provide "somebody to talk to about crime," said Campus Police Sergeant Cheryl Vossmer. Dormitory residents can ask their Project Awareness representatives questions they have concerning crime prevention.

Project Awareness has received a few requests from InterFraternity Council members who want to get involved. Eventually, the committee hopes to include independent living groups, but "we're starting small," Levitt said.

Vossmer said there were 77 reported thefts in dormitories and ILGs in 1991. Working to curb this crime, Project Awareness wants students to be "more aware of their own environment," Levitt said. Dormitory residents should be careful because "not all thieves are outsiders."

"People think [MIT] is a great dome that protects everybody," but they forget it is a campus which is open 24 hours a day, Vossmer said.

Anne S. Tsao '94, chairman of the UA Safety Committee, said students tend to "distrust" Campus Police. "We don't like having Campus Police monitor our parties." Students forget that the Campus Police protects us, she said.

Tsao, who is also UA Secretary-General, said the UA Council can make it mandatory for dormitories to send representatives to Project Awareness, although she said enforcement methods have not been discussed.

Another goal of Project Awareness is to inform students of the services provided by Campus Police. Every October, freshmen are given 18 pieces of literature about Campus Police services. Still, students do not realize what is available, Vossmer said. She wants to inform students of services such as A Safe Ride, ambulance services, crisis intervention, and third party reporting, which is a way to report rape anonymously.

Project Awareness members also want to create an environment where students "feel comfortable talking about safety," Levitt said. "Zero stranger rapes or acquaintance rapes were reported to Campus Police" from January to Sept. 30 last year, Vossmer said. When this statistic was brought up at a Project Awareness meeting, the students were quite surprised, and Vossmer is sure many in the community would be surprised as well.

"Traditionally the administration has taken the major role" in these types of committees, but here "the Awareness chairs run the show," said Levitt, who represents the ODSA on the committee. "All the houses have a distinct character and like to do things their own way," so having students involved in design is important, he added.

Presently, Project Awareness is talking with graduate resident tutors, hoping to arrange study breaks where the dormitory representatives can discuss campus safety with their peers. A Campus Police officer would be on hand to answer questions, said Vossmer, the CP representative on the committee.

The Housing Department purchased mugs for Project Awareness to distribute. The mugs remind students to lock their doors and have MIT emergency numbers printed on them.

Levitt and Vossmer said they have been talking about the formation of this student committee since last summer. Project Awareness had its first meeting in November and is now beginning the "activity phase," Levitt said.

Project Awareness has many plans for the future, including the organization of a Safety Week. Other issues, such as more outdoor lighting in certain areas and recognition awards for outstanding Awareness representatives, are being considered. For the long run, both Vossmer and Levitt expressed an interest in creating a crime and safety orientation program for new students.

Albert H. Cheng '92, a Next House representative, said the committee is working on "a real definition of what the group is about." He thinks the group will be effective, "but we have to get more people involved. Right now, we're very much for pushing membership."