Students should hold officials accountable

Anyone who reads the news knows UNA hasn’t been the safest place lately. In the past few weeks, the community has experienced several alleged crimes: public lewdness, rape, threats to the math department, robbery and a former student being banned from campus for violating a restraining order.

Several of these reported crimes — as well a large number of past crimes — occurred in the parking deck. Many students raised concerns about the handling of these crimes and the general commitment to student safety by campus security officials.

Why are there no cameras in the parking deck? Why did officials wait two days to report an alleged rape to students? Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields and UNA police Chief Bob Pastula recently addressed some of these concerns in four open forums.

First, kudos goes to these officials for taking a step in the right direction. The Flor-Ala staff did not hold back in its reporting on these events and even wrote a strongly worded staff editorial on the UNA administration’s apparent lack of concern for student safety, so it’s only fair that the same administration gets credit where it’s deserved.

Though these forums were not well attended by students, they still gave the UNA community the opportunity to raise any safety concerns. Pastula and Shields shared several safety measures they have implemented to increase campus safety and even took suggestions from attendees.

But it’s important that the progress doesn’t stop here. Yes, UNA police now patrol the parking deck from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., and this should be a permanent change, but let’s take it a step further. Why not have them patrol until 2 a.m., after all the students studying in the library have had time to get safely home? With the recent addition of 12 reserve officers to the force, it shouldn’t be that hard.

These recent crimes show that, no matter how safe Florence and the UNA campus might feel, there are still student safety issues. That means increasing student safety by any means necessary should be an ongoing and primary concern for campus security officials.

And students should be just as concerned. They should press UNA officials for answers when security questions go unanswered. They should continue to utilize the current safety resources, all the while advocating for new, better ones.

When criminals threaten the UNA community, we should act as just that — a community — and work together to increase safety. But that doesn’t mean simply looking out for one another and hoping security officials do their jobs. UNA community members spoke out when they saw gaps in campus security, and officials responded with forums and increased security measures.

Community members should do their jobs by utilizing security resources and, most importantly, pushing those we pay to protect us to do so. That’s the only way we can move toward a safer campus and community overall.