SGA plans assembly to address student safety


Kiersten Riedford

Junior Magoli Garcia, Student Government Association (SGA) vice president, spoke during an SGA meeting on Feb. 23. addressing public safety in light of the recent on-campus attacks.

Student Government Association (SGA) is taking action on public safety after the attacks on April 13, when according to police, a registered sex offender assaulted two students on the Lincoln Park campus. The offender was arrested and charged with two felony counts of unlawful restraint, one felony count of battery with use of deadly weapon, and one misdemeanor count of theft.

SGA will host an assembly on Thursday May 4 with students, staff and faculty to address recent concerns regarding safety on-campus. Details of the event, along with SGA’s proposed changes to safety and its collaboration with administration, were shared in a press release on April 27. 

“This is the kind of situation no student at this university should ever have to deal with, especially being in the middle of our campus in broad daylight with hundreds of people around,” said Kellen Brown, SGA chief of staff and senior. “This is something that really warranted immediate action and something we can never let happen again.”

The survivors will share their experiences of the attacks at the assembly. A discussion will then be held to encourage open dialogue between students and SGA. 

Attendees will also be able to share ideas about how to improve campus safety. SGA hopes to receive student feedback on the proposed safety solutions and hear new perspectives on the issue.

“More students need to share their thoughts and feelings about this, but they won’t be able to without being properly briefed,” said Parveen Mundi, SGA executive vice president of student affairs and sophomore. “We’re working on some very big proposals in reimagining safety for students on this campus, so involving students is a big part of making that change happen.”  

SGA will host an assembly on May 4 for students, staff and faculty to discuss on-campus safety. (Kiersten Riedford)

SGA held a town hall on March 12 to address public safety at the Loop campus, but no campus safety policies have been changed since then. Students mentioned concerns regarding the possible danger of individuals not affiliated with DePaul accessing buildings. In response, Public Safety Director Robert Wachowski said students should communicate with public safety officers if they feel unsafe on campus.

Since the town hall, there have been six public safety alerts with three at the Loop campus and three at the Lincoln Park campus.

“We hope this time the issues have finally come together so that administration is well aware of the problem,” Brown said. “Now, they are completely onboard and willing to seriously consider the proposals we’re making in terms of additional safety infrastructure.”

Brown said these issues have been discussed with administration for years with little progress. He believes this time will be different.  

“These are conversations I’ve seen since I joined SGA years ago,” Brown said. “Almost every meeting up until this year was always the same thing, just hearing administration say they would maybe consider it. I think as unfortunate as it is, what happened on [April 13] was the catalyst of what we’ve been asking for.”

SGA said in its press release that the attacks were the result of an “institutional failure” and called upon administration to increase the university’s security infrastructure. The proposed solutions mentioned include updating policies that restrict Public Safety officers’ ability to approach people on-campus and making DePaul a closed campus. SGA’s closed campus initiative would require buildings to only be accessible through swipe access, similar to residential buildings on-campus, or have turnstiles at each entrance.  

Other initiatives being pushed by SGA are more detailed and timely Public Safety alerts and updated training for Public Safety officers. On the day of the April 13 attacks, Public Safety sent out an alert at 6:06 p.m. more than two hours after the attacks occurred around 4 p.m.

“Everyone deserves the right to feel safe, especially in a place they’re supposed to learn and grow,” Magoli Garcia, SGA vice president and junior said. “That’s really what’s pushing SGA right now to continue this fight.”

Garcia said SGA took immediate action after hearing first hand accounts about the attacks from the survivors. According to students, the Public Safety alert allegedly did not accurately address the severity of the incidents and were also sent multiple hours after the attacks occurred.

“The difference between reading the public safety emails and sitting down and listening to the survivors’ stories really put a fire under us,” Garcia said. “Considering this was preventable, now we fully understand the failures of our policies and current safety infrastructures.”

The press release and upcoming assembly are part of a weeks-long effort between SGA and administration to address the issue. SGA cabinet members met with Facility Operations, including Public Safety, on April 21. A second meeting with DePaul President Robert Manuel and the two survivors of the attack was held on April 23. 

“What made our conversations with administration so effective and productive was our anger,” Mundi said. “[Manuel] really saw how far we were willing to go on this issue. I don’t think these policy changes are going to persist or be implemented without students seeing how they are personally affected by this and feeling that anger too.”

SGA is preparing a short term proposal for safety policies that can be implemented as soon as possible and a long term proposal for the administration and president’s office. It is unclear what short term changes can be expected.

“These kinds of institutional changes don’t happen overnight,” Garcia said. “Especially considering we will be having a transition of power in SGA over the next quarter and also next year with each election. For us right now, while we’re in these positions, we want to ensure the next generation of SGA continues to hold themselves to those long term goals.”

Mundi said students can support the proposed safety initiatives by attending the assembly to share ideas and learn more about the recent attacks. She said seeing student reactions will help show administration that SGA’s proposals are representative of the student body and encourage quicker action.

“We need input from anyone that has felt unsafe on this campus,” Mundi said. “People need to hear these stories to build the cohesiveness and unity we need for this going forward. If students are angry or frustrated coming out of this assembly, it would show that students feel this is as urgent as SGA does.”