On March 29, around 10:30 p.m., the sound of gunshots echoed among buildings that house thousands of University Minnesota students who call Dinkytown their home away from home. The deadly shooting occurred directly outside an apartment building I lived in for a year. Although the victim, may he rest in peace, was not a student, this violence is another reason for concern for anyone who lives near the area.
In the past year, Minneapolis and the surrounding metro area have undergone what feels like an onslaught. Since last March, our campus leadership has worked tirelessly to mitigate the risk that the COVID-19 pandemic presented to students, faculty and the surrounding community. It is very evident to students that the university made its response to COVID-19 a priority since it began last year.
These efforts, this concern about our safety, have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Unfortunately, as university leaders have poured countless resources into their COVID-19 response, they failed to notice students' rising sentiment that our campus is no longer safe at night.
Perhaps the climax of this failure would be the violence that occurred on the night of the 29th. But as sad and concerning as this crime was, it is also disheartening that it cannot be described as an anomaly. While the magnitude of this crime was greater than what students have gotten used to in the last year, it emphasizes the now potentially deadly threat facing students who live on or near campus.
You would be hard-pressed to identify a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night in the last six months when there has not been a student getting robbed, held at gunpoint, or beaten up for seemingly no reason while simply trying to get home. Admittedly, I am very angered that this has happened to more of my close friends than I can count on one hand, but what is almost more frustrating is the disregard for students' safety shown by university leadership.
It is not lost on me that COVID-19 has made this academic year more difficult for our leaders to navigate through. All I am asking is that we, the students at the University of Minnesota, see improvement in our campus safety and that we see it soon.
One positive step would be to address the scarce and outdated lighting in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village areas, where many of these crimes have taken place. This could potentially provide long-term relief, but it will take time and work with the City Council to enact this.
I also understand that the death of George Floyd changed how our campus and city will operate moving forward. But perhaps a compromise to keep students safe from hit-and-run type crimes that have become much more frequent is to increase the presence of the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD). This could be accomplished by placing more surveillance cameras in areas that have seen an increase in crime or through a physical presence with routine patrolling.
The goal of the UMPD should not be to impede the privacy of students but rather to keep students safe.
Safe-U alerts are not enough to protect students from our increasingly dangerous campus. I recognize that neither is one commentary in the Star Tribune, but it is imperative that something is done to keep students safe. Having said all of this, I believe I share a common sentiment with almost all of my fellow students in challenging President Joan Gabel and other university leaders to take immediate action in restoring safety and order back to our beloved campus.
Mason Thimjon is a student in Minneapolis.