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Carla Wilson, a graduate student studying social work at the U, is bothered by the constant barrage of advice in campus crime alerts. Every alert contains the same safety pointers urging students to keep their valuables hidden, to never walk alone and to avoid being distracted.
Often students don’t have the choice of walking home with someone, Wilson said. Maybe their friends left them at a party, maybe they wanted to leave the bar before everyone else did, or maybe they did walk with someone and had to go the last block alone.
Instead of implying that a crime is the victim’s fault, Wilson said, the U should work to make the community safer so students don’t have to worry if they have to walk home alone.
The U recently announced a number of safety initiatives after two stranger sex assaults last fall and a flurry of other crimes against students. The Board of Regents will vote this week on a $4.1 million proposal to pay more overtime for campus police officers and to add security cameras and lighting.
University Police Lt. Troy Buhta said campus police get the Aurora Center involved as soon as possible after a victim comes to them, and they try to make the victim tell her story only once. Officers also receive training to avoid seeming judgmental or skeptical.
In addition, Eichele said the U is changing its disciplinary process for sexual assaults. Beginning in March, victims will be able to appeal decisions in Student Conduct Code hearings, instead of only the accused having that right.
But advocates say more should be done, and that college is too late to start.
Wilson teaches sex assault prevention classes to middle and high school students through her internship with Tubman, a relationship violence center.
Boys and girls both learn that it’s a person’s right to say no and that people should look out for one another, she said.
Realizing how sexual assaults occur, who commits these crimes and what is a crime is crucial, Bastian said.
“There needs to be an understanding of what consent is,” she said, “and that consent is nonnegotiable.”
Rebecca Harrington is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.
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