University of Minnesota prepares for the first weekend of the fall semester

U of M campus safety concerns

U of M campus safety concerns

There’s an upbeat feeling at the University of Minnesota, as the campus gears up for the first weekend of the semester.

“Everybody’s on campus and the football game tomorrow night will bring a lot of people in,” said Jack Bartlett, a U of M senior.

But others are concerned about what will happen on the streets.

“I feel like sometimes it does feel a little unsafe,” said Ella Walters, a sophomore. “Especially as a young woman in Dinkytown.”

But University officials are vowing to keep the campus community safe.

“Ensuring safety on all of our campuses continues to be a top priority of our team,” Jeff Ettinger, the University’s Interim President, told the Board of Regents Friday. “We are unwavering in our commitment to the safety of every U of M student, staff member, faculty member, and visitor.”

The school is planning a ramped-up police presence this weekend, including UMPD and Minneapolis Police, backed up by Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies, state troopers and Metro Transit Police.

”MPD will assist us with traffic control and security during the football game Saturday evening,” explained Myron Frans, the Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations. “UMPD will move into downtown following the game.”

Extra patrols will ride Green Line trains and monitor transit stations.

By Friday afternoon, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew spotted vest-wearing ‘safety guides’ who can alert 911 in case of trouble.

There are also community engagement patrols on Thursday and Saturday nights.  

The idea is to prevent chaotic situations, including past incidents where gunshots and fireworks were set off outside frat houses and buildings.

Sophomore Anders Lang believes much of the trouble comes from people outside the campus community.

“Just people from all parts of the Cities,” he said. “They come here to party, but they don’t come to respect the neighborhood, because they don’t live here.”

During the Board of Regents meeting, Frans also talked about long-term plans to improve security, including:

  • Key card access at 95 buildings across campus
  • Locked, secured restrooms in every dorm
  • A pilot project at Pioneer Hall to install key-card turnstiles and real-time video surveillance at the main entrance
  • Replacing old security cameras and other outdated technology with the help of $8 million in state funding
  • Availability of self-defense classes and other safety programs

Lang says students themselves need to learn to be more cautious, especially about unknowingly giving access to people entering a dorm or other residential facility.

“It’s almost like a trust factor — ‘Oh yeah, I’ll hold the door open for you.’ — That’s a good wording for that,” he said.

Walters hopes the new security protocols will make the campus safer.

“Just like more resources for students to learn how to protect yourself in a dangerous situation, especially living in a college town,” she explained. “We have like the blue light safety around campus, that’s nice, especially if you run into a situation like that.”